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2016-2017 Bacterial Pathogens, Viruses and Parasites in Unpasteurized Juices and High Pressure Processed Juices


The consumption of unpasteurised "raw" fruit and vegetable juices has become increasingly popular in recent years and are consumed by Canadians. Consumers view their consumption as a convenient way of increasing their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and feel that "raw" juices are more nutritious than pasteurized juices which have undergone a heat treatment to inactivate microbial pathogens. A variety of unpasteurized "raw" juices are available on the Canadian market, such as unpasteurized apple ciders/juices, freshly squeezed/pressed juices, and cold-pressed juices (juice extracted using a hydraulic press). Unfortunately, unpasteurized juices have been previously associated with numerous outbreaks of foodborne illnesses worldwide including Canada. Given that juices are directly consumed, the presence of microbial pathogens creates a potential risk for foodborne illnesses.

A popular alternative to unpasteurized and pasteurized juices are high-pressure processed (HPP) juices. High pressure processing is a process that uses thousands of pounds of hydrostatic pressure to treat cold-pressed "raw" juices to inactivate microbial pathogens at relatively low temperatures (e.g., 18°C) as compared to traditional pasteurization (e.g., 71°C). Therefore, HPP juices undergo minimal changes in freshness and nutritional content compared to pasteurized juices, while having an improved microbiological safety and longer shelf life compared to cold-pressed "raw" juices and other types of unpasteurized "raw" juices.

Considering the factors mentioned above and their relevance to Canadians, both unpasteurized "raw" juices and HPP juices were selected for this study, which is comprised of three targeted surveys. The purpose of the study was to generate information on the occurrence of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites of concern in unpasteurized and HPP juices on the Canadian market.

Over the course of this study (April 1, 2016 – August 31, 2017), a total of 1828 samples, including 612 unpasteurized and 1216 HPP juice samples were collected from retail locations in 11 cities across Canada. Samples from survey i, including unpasteurized juice samples (382) and HPP juice samples (751) were tested for bacterial pathogens of concern (Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7), Salmonella species (spp.), Shigella) and generic Escherichia coli (E. coli) which is an indicator of the overall sanitation conditions throughout the food production chain. Samples from survey ii, including unpasteurized juice samples (218) and HPP juice samples (465) were tested for enteric viruses of concern (Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus (NoV) (Genotype I and II (GI and GII)). Samples from survey iii, due to analytical methodology limitations were comprised solely of unpasteurized apple juice/cider samples, and tested for enteric parasites of concern (Cyclospora cayetanensis (C. cayetanensis), Cryptosporidium species (spp.), Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) and Giardia spp.

Bacterial pathogens (E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp., Shigella), enteric viruses (HAV, Nov (GI, GII) and parasites (C. cayetanensis, Cryptosporidium spp., T. gondii, Giardia spp.) were not found in any samples. An elevated level of generic E. coli (100 < x ≤ 1000 Most Probable Number (MPN)/mL) was found in one juice sample (< 0.1%, 1/1133), which was a cold-pressed unpasteurized juice sample and in response, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducted appropriate follow-up activities.

Overall, our study results indicate that almost all of the unpasteurized and HPP juices sampled appear to have been produced under Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices. One sample in our survey was found to have an elevated level of generic E. coli, which may indicate a loss of sanitation controls along the juice production chain. Consequently, safe handling practices are recommended for producers, retailers and consumers.

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