Cider rules press apple producers

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SALEM, Ohio – Not-so-new cider regulations taking effect in January may put a strain on small producers.

Take Brian Eucker of Trumbull County. He’s a small cider producer who makes about 25,000 gallons a year. He sells at his farm market in Hartford, Ohio, and wholesales to other stores and groups like the local Lions Club.

Under the third phase of a federal ruling, Eucker has to either pasteurize, use ultraviolet processing or ozonate his cider sold off his property.

Pasteurization is out of the question, Eucker said, because he thinks it distorts the taste of his cider, which has won two state awards.

So he says his choices are to either spend $3,000-$6,000 for an ozone system, spend $12,000-$14,000 for an ultraviolet system or stop wholesaling his cider all together.

His decision must be made by Jan. 20, the government’s deadline.

It’s been coming. These rules aren’t new, said Chuck Kirchner, Ohio Department of Agriculture’s food safety administrator.

They’re part of a Federal Drug Administration program that took effect four years ago with a three-year phase-in period, he said.

Large cider producers had one year to comply; medium producers, two years; and small producers, three years. Kirchner said he is unsure exactly how many small producers in Ohio will be affected.

E. coli bacteria was linked to unpasteurized juice in the 1990s and resulted in several deaths.

The FDA proposed to reduce the risk of food poisoning outbreaks through a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program. Part of these rules required producers take steps to eliminate harmful bacteria.

Retail operations are exempt from the rules if they sell their product from the location where the cider is pressed. Although they are exempt, each jug must have a warning label if it is not pasteurized, ozonated or UV processed.

Warnings. Cider producer Matt Haus didn’t like the idea of these warning labels.

These type of labels are for cigarettes and beer, not something like apple cider, he said.

“Soccer moms aren’t going to go for a hazardous label on their cider,” Haus added.

So in 1997, long before the federal rules required him to have the equipment in place, he started pasteurizing his product.

“It was a sizable investment but we bit the bullet and did it,” he said. “We have a reputation in the cider business to protect.”

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

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Stark County apple cider recalled due to bacteria

COLUMBUS – Despite using an ozonation process to kill bacteria, one producer’s cider may be linked to an illness outbreak.

As of Nov. 2, 13 people have reported having cryptosporidiosis, with the major symptoms being diarrhea, cramping and abdominal pain. All drank cider from Sunny Slope Orchard in Stark County.

The Ohio Department of Health urges customers who bought cider there between Sept. 20 and Oct. 23 to immediately discard the juice.

The crypotosporidium parasite is spread through the fecal-oral route. People could experience symptoms for up to 12 days after exposure to the parasite.

According to the department of health, symptoms may last for 30 days but people may continue to be infectious for several weeks after recovering.

The ozone process, meant to kill potentially harmful bacteria in fresh juice, is not effective killing this parasite.

Sunny Slope agreed to voluntarily recall their product from the shelves, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

The state and local health departments, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Drug Administration are investigating the outbreak.

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