Exposure of Escherichia coli O157:H7 to chlorine before heat treatment results in increased production of heat shock proteins. Current heating regimens for pasteurizing apple cider do not account for chlorine exposure in the wash water. This research determined the effect of sublethal chlorine treatment on thermal inactivation of E. coli O157:H7. D58-values were calculated for stationary-phase cells exposed to 0.6 mg/liter of total available chlorine and unchlorinated cells in commercial shelf-stable apple juice (pH 3.6). D58-values for unchlorinated and chlorine-exposed cells in buffer were 5.45 and 1.65 min, respectively (P < 0.01). Death curves of chlorine-exposed and unchlorinated cells in apple juice were not completely linear. Unchlorinated cells heated in apple juice exhibit a 3-min delay before onset of linear inactivation. Chlorine treatment eliminated this shoulder, indicating an overall loss of thermotolerance. The linear portion of each curve represented a small fraction of the total population. D58-values calculated from these populations are 0.77 min for unexposed cells and 1.19 min for chlorine-exposed cells (P = 0.05). This indicates that a subpopulation of chorine-treated cells is possibly more resistant to heat because of chlorine treatment. The effect of chlorine treatment, however, is insignificant when compared with the effect of losing the shoulder. This is illustrated by the time required to kill the initial 90% of the cell population. This is observed to be 3.14 min for unchlorinated versus 0.3 min for chlorine-exposed cells (P < 0.001). These observations indicate that current heat treatments need not be adjusted for the effect of chlorine treatment.