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Preventive controls for unpasteurized fruit juices and ciders (apple and other fruits)

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Introduction

The consumption of unpasteurized juices and ciders contaminated with pathogenic organisms, such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7), Salmonella spp. and Cryptosporidium spp., have been known to cause human illness. The young, the elderly and those in poor health are considered to be at higher risk.

Definitions

For the purpose of this document, the following definitions apply.

Unpasteurized cider
The unfermented, unclarified, untreated liquid obtained from the pressing of properly prepared, sound, clean, mature fruit. It includes sweet and soft cider, as well as frozen cider. Hard cider (fermented) and cider which has been concentrated by a heat treatment are not covered by this document.
Unpasteurized juice
The unfermented liquid (usually clarified) obtained from the pressing of properly prepared, sound, clean, mature fruit. It includes frozen juice. Juice which has been concentrated by a heat treatment is a different product and is not covered by this document.

Possible causes of contamination

The most likely cause of contamination is fruit coming in contact with wild or domestic animal feces, or with water, workers, containers or processing equipment contaminated with animal feces. Cattle, deer and sheep, are the most common reservoirs for the pathogen, but usually do not show symptoms themselves. Birds, rodents, insects and poor hygiene may also contribute to the contamination.

Research indicates that pathogenic organisms such as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp. and Cryptosporidium spp. can survive in acid foods including refrigerated unpasteurized fruit juices and ciders for up to four weeks. Since the number of bacteria required to cause illness is very low, monitoring the microbial load is not an effective means of detecting contaminated products. As little as one contaminated piece of fruit could affect an entire batch of juice or cider.

Reducing the risk

Even though washing fresh apples before pressing and adding preservatives to juices and ciders may reduce the microbial load, these practices have been found ineffective at eliminating pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7.

The following steps will help reduce the risk of contamination but cannot guarantee a pathogen-free juice or cider:

Managing the orchard

A means of excluding domestic and wild animals should be used (e.g., fencing). Where bird roosting is a problem, a means should be used to scare and prevent birds from roosting and soiling the fruit.

Neither animal manure nor human waste should be used. Research on pathogen survival in manure treatments and on assessing the risk of cross-contamination of food crops from manure under varying conditions is largely just beginning. Composting and other treatments may reduce but may not eliminate pathogens in manure.

Water used to dilute pesticides and irrigate orchards can be a source of contamination. Therefore, growers should be aware of conditions that make the water source more susceptible to microbiological contaminants and follow control practices to ensure that water quality is acceptable for its intended use.

Harvesting

Sound ripe fruit should be picked and placed into clean, dry bins suitable for direct transportation to a storage facility, sorting station or juice/cider plant, as appropriate.

Drop fruit should not be used for unpasteurized juices and ciders. Diseased, rotten fruit, fruit with damaged skin (with flesh exposed) and fruit with dirt or animal/bird excrement should be rejected.

Fruit storing

Ideally, fruit should be pressed as soon as possible after picking to avoid increases of pH that would favor growth of pathogens during storage.

If fruit needs to be stored, rapid cooling to as close to 0ºC as possible (0 to 4ºC) and adequate storage conditions will help maintain fruit condition. Controlled atmosphere storage, if used, should be kept at the atmosphere and temperature recommended for the variety of fruit. After removal from storage, fruit should be pressed as soon as possible.

Fruit should be handled as gently as possible; every effort should be made to minimize physical damage at all stages of post-harvest handling prior to pressing.

Fruit sorting

Fruit should be inspected in a clean, dry, well-lit environment to prevent the spread of contamination. Only sound whole fruit should be used. Decayed, wormy, damaged (with flesh exposed), soiled (excrement) fruit should be culled to prevent contamination of juice or cider.

Another concern with using decayed or damaged fruit is the potential formation of patulin which is a toxic chemical produced as a metabolite of molds that occur naturally in the environment. These molds can grow on fruits such as apples, peaches and pears but they are most often associated with brown rot on apples.

Fruit cleaning

All fruit should be subjected to effective washing, brushing and rinsing. If sanitizers are used during washing, they should be food grade and rinsed from the fruit unless otherwise instructed by the manufacturer's directions. Sanitizer levels should be monitored at appropriate intervals and recorded.

Flume, wash and rinse water should not be recycled. Wash water should be at least 5ºC warmer than the fruit to be pressed otherwise, microbial contaminants present in the wash water could be drawn into the flesh or core of the fruit.

Product storing and preserving

Sodium benzoate may be effective against low microbial loads at low pH. If used, it should be added immediately after pressing, according to the manufacturer's directions, and in accordance with the Food and Drug Regulations.

All unpasteurized juice/cider should immediately be refrigerated (between 0 to 4ºC) or frozen (less than -18ºC) and should be held at those temperatures, during storage, transportation and sale, until ready to consume.

Product testing

Microbiological testing on production batches is recommended to identify sanitation failures or product contamination. While end product testing may not be a complete assurance that the juice is free of pathogens, indicator organisms such as coliforms or generic E. coli may help determine if adequate and consistent sanitation is being practiced.

Labelling

Unpasteurized juices and ciders should be labelled as "unpasteurized".

References

  • Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), Requirements and Recommendations for Apple Cider Processing Operations, (May 26, 1999)
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Food Safety Enhancement Program (FSEP) Manual
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Reference Listing of Accepted Construction Materials, Packaging Materials and Non-Food Chemicals
  • Cornell University, Food Safety Update Bulletin, November, 1996
  • Cornell University, Recommended Good Manufacturing Practices Fresh Apple Juices (draft), June 6, 1998
  • Course materials provided at the Apple Cider Processing and Safety Workshop, March 7, 1997; sponsored by Food Science and Technology, Cornell University and the New York Apple Association.
  • Dhum B. Patel, Division of Commodity Regulation, New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Recommendations for Good Manufacturing Practices and Plant Sanitation in Apple Cider Press Operations
  • Draft Revised Recommended International Code of Practice - General Principles of Food Hygiene - ALINORM 97/13A, Appendix II
  • Food and Drugs Act and Regulations (F&D Regulations)
  • Gerald Wojtala, Food Division, Michigan Department of Agriculture, Michigan's Response to E. coli O157:H7 in Apple Cider
  • Health Canada, Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality
  • Health Canada, Health Canada's Guidance Document on Unpasteurized Fruit Juice and Cider
  • Health Protection Branch, Health Canada, Proposed Division 29, Good Manufacturing Practices Regulations for Foods with Interpretative Guidelines (Draft), May 29 1996
  • Joe O'Leary, Food Safety Quality Task Force, University of Kentucky, Ensuring the Safety of Cider
  • Massachusetts Department of Health, Division of Food and Drug; Suggestions for Proper Sanitation in Massachusetts Cider Mills, 1993
  • Pascal J. Delaquis, Shannon M. Ward and Kareen Stanich, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, Evaluation of Pre-Pressing Sanitary Treatments for the Destruction of Escherichia Coli 0157:H7 on Apples Destined for Production of Unpasteurized Apple Juice, November 1999
  • Pennsylvania State University; Making, Handling and Marketing High Quality Apple Cider
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (Draft), April 13, 1998