Small-scale cider producers benefit from FDA approval of UV processing

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COLUMBUS – FDA approval of ultraviolet light processing to reduce pathogens for all fruit and vegetable juices could be a big boost to small cider producers.

Experts say UV processing is a cheaper, viable alternative to thermal pasteurization. Cider producers say the simplicity of UV processing is also a benefit.

Bob Bowers of Laurelville Fruit Farm in Laurelville, Ohio, has used UV processing for his cider for about three years. He says UV processing fit his small cider operation perfectly.

“It gives me a safe product, and it didn’t change the taste because it’s nonevasive to the cider. I’ve never wanted to cook my cider,” said Bowers. “I can’t say anything bad about using UV.”

FDA approval took two years, however during that time Ohio producers were allowed to use UV processing as long as they labeled it with a warning.

“I’m glad to see it approved. I think it will greatly benefit our small-scale cider producers,” said Winston Bash, of Ohio State’s Food Industries Center. “There are other systems out there that are still being tested and the use of heat is still probably going to be the most popular.”

Kills E. coli.

Randy Worobo, Cornell University food safety expert, began working with UV processing in 1998 while looking for methods to reduce the bacteria E. coli 0157:H7 in apple juice. They teamed with Phil Hartman of FPE Inc., the engineer who developed the original design of the UV apparatus.

The team worked together to develop the technology necessary for a commercial unit, and to carry out the microbiological tests using various pathogenic strains of E. coli.

Worobo’s laboratory also developed the death kinetics related to UV exposure, tested the effect of UV pasteurization on cider color and solids, possible UV quenching agents and identified what government regulations apply to cider producers.

The UV device is effective, reducing of E. coli contamination from 100,000 microorganisms per milliliter to 1 organism per milliliter in a single pass.

“Cider is often cited as an example of the E. coli bacteria. I hope this helps relieve people of their anxiety about E. coli in cider,” said Bash.

In taste tests at Cornell, a panel of 50 participants found no statistical difference for raw, UV treated and pasteurized ciders, Worobo said.

Other juices tested.

Worobo has also tested UV technology on carrot juice, blueberry juice, grape juice, red and white wine and orange juice. He has also tested UV’s performance at reducing such pathogens as Cryptosporidium parvum, Listeria monocytogens and Salmonella.

Energy efficient.

Bowers said the efficiency of the apparatus is also important, estimating it takes about 1,500 watts per hour to run the machine. He compares it to running a hair dryer.

Currently, his machine runs about 340 gallons per hour, but he is working with engineer Phil Hartman to upgrade his pump to allow him to run 500 gallons an hour.

“I’ve gotten to know Hartman pretty well, and he is a genius. The software he created is so user friendly, and maintenance has been nothing. After I’m done, I just run some disinfectant through it and I’m finished,” said Bowers.

The CiderSure units are about 2 feet wide, 2 feet long and 4 feet high. The units cost between $13,000 and $14,000, compared to $60,000 to $70,000 for machinery needed for thermal pasteurization.

“This machine has paid for itself time after time,” said Bowers. “And once I’m running 500 gallons an hour, I won’t be able to ask for anything better.”

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