Terry Bradshaw Vermont Calais, VT Orchard-Crafted Hard Cider in the New American Tradition

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Considerations for Operating a Commercial, Non-HACCP Cider Mill in Vermont

 


 

 

Food Safety

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. 
The bottom line is that I run a clean mill using clean fruit, but I do not otherwise treat (pasteurize) my juice to achieve the microbial reduction recommended by the FDA.  
Some people prefer their cider unpasteurized.  It's your call whether to buy it, or if you do, to whom you serve it.

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.
Title:  SURVIVAL OF ESCHERICHIA COLI O157-H7 DURING FERMENTATION OF APPLE CIDER
Source:  Journal of Food Protection. 59(12):1256-1259, 1996 Dec.
Abstract:  Survival of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in fermenting and nonfermenting fresh apple cider was determined. Populations of E. coli O157:H7 were reduced from 6.4 log CFU/ml to undetectable levels (detection limit of 0.5 log CFU/ml) in fermenting cider after 3 days at 20 degrees C and from 6.5 log CFU/ml to 2.9 log CFU/ml after 10 days at 20 degrees C in nonfermenting cider. After 1 day of incubation, recovery of E. coli O157:H7 from fermenting and nonfermenting cider was statistically (P < 0.01) lower on sorbitol MacConkey agar than on tryptone soya agar supplemented with
cycloheximide. These results suggest that substantial portions of the surviving E. coli O157:H7 populations were sublethally injured by cider components (i.e., acid and ethanol). The pH of fermenting cider was not significantly different (P > 0.05)  from that of nonfermenting cider throughout the 10-day test period. Final ethanol concentrations in fermenting cider reached 6.01% (vol/vol) after 10 days at 20 degrees C. Inactivation of E. coli O157:H7 in fermenting cider is attributed to the combined effects of pH and ethanol. Results of this study indicate that E. coli O157:H7 is capable of survival in fresh apple cider at 20 degrees C, while alcoholic fermentation of fresh cider is an effective means of destroying this pathogen.

 

 

 

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All material Copyright Terence Bradshaw 2006-2013

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