This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain harmful bacteria that can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.
Would you take a pull off from a jug of cider with the above statement attached to it? This is the required labeling that must be out on all apple juice (sweet cider) that has not been produced under HACCP (more on that later) conditions and treated to a 5-log reduction process, either pasteurization or ultraviolet treatment. This ruling was put in place in response to a number of outbreaks of food-borne illness in recent years attributed to fresh cider. In all reality, cider made under clean conditions with clean fruit is generally safe, but in at least one case a child died from her illness. This is serious stuff.
In the mill I take food safety very seriously. I will not squeeze dirty fruit, and the judgement call is mine. FDA regulations call for pasteurizing of fresh juice offered for wholesale markets, but allow for the sale of fresh juice directly from the processor to consumers. I do not pasteurize or otherwise treat juice from the mill.
The retail treatment exemption is allowed for small producers who would otherwise not be able to afford necessary equipment to meet FDA standards. It is essential that anyone who sells untreated juice follow all necessary steps to ensure the cleanliness of the mill and the juice from it. For fermentation purposes, cleaner juice also carries a lower natural microbial load and contributes to more successful cidermaking.
I follow a strict sanitation program in the mill including sourcing only
clean, tree-picked fruit and following standard sanitary operating procedures.
Under the federal regulations, wholesale producers are required to write and follow a
Hazard Analysis at Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan. This document addresses
potential hazards in the processing facility and corrective measures to be taken.
The final step, or CCP in the plan is the 5-log treatment. Since I am a retail
operation and have no plans to treat my juice, at least until the cost of UV units drops
from $8000 (used, if you're lucky) to maybe $1000, I do not have to draw up such a
plan. Still, it makes good sense to address the potential hazards in any food
processing facility. I completed the required FDA HACCP training course for
wholesale operations in the spring of 2004.
Fermentation is one process which has been proven to achieve the 5-log reduction in pathogen load in fresh cider (1). Aspiring cidermakers therefore are assured of coming out with an unadulterated (yet alcoholic) product.
(1) Authors: Semanchek
JJ. Golden DA.
All material Copyright Terence Bradshaw 2006-2013
terryb at lostmeadowvt dot com