It’s only been 18 years since Odwalla: Cider recall has producer on the defensive

When Amy provides some medical advice, I remind her she’s not a medical doctor or scientist, she’s a doctor of French professoring.

apple.cider.pressSo when a farmer says, one bad batch of unpasteurized apple cider shouldn’t scare the public away from the health benefits of the natural juice, maybe he needs to be reminded he’s a farmer.

E. coli O157 is natural; so is smallpox; I don’t want them.

I’m all for looking for expertise in weird places because we all have our own weird experiences: but that’s not a basis for public policy; scientific experimentation and peer review is about the best we’ve got at this point, although I’m open to any idea.

As the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expands the recall of unpasteurized apple cider products sold at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market located in Waterloo, Ontario (that’s in Canada), Dale Wilson, the owner of Osoleo Wildcrafters, one of the companies whose locally-made apple cider has been recalled after suspected cases of E. coli poisoning struck three people in Ontario told the K-W Record that it’s an overreaction to suggest people ought to steer clear of raw, or unpasteurized, apple cider. He sells much of his cider directly to consumers at markets who believe the raw, preservative-free version of the juice is better for their health.

“Here’s an accidental situation that happens maybe once a year, and suddenly becomes the hue and cry for shutting down the entire system,” he said. “There’s two sides to this story.”

To its advocates, unpasteurized apple cider is a healthy, natural food product that can help ward off colds and the flu and cleanse the digestive system. Pasteurization kills off the taste and the good bacteria that can help your body, Wilson said.

“The risks are not outweighed by any perceived health benefits,” said Chris Komorowski, food safety manager at Waterloo Region public health.

odwalla.cider.e.coliUnlike unpasteurized milk, it’s legal to sell raw cider in Ontario as long as it’s labelled properly.

Here’s the abstract from a paper Amber Luedtke and I published back in 2002:

A review of North American apple cider outbreaks caused by E. coli O157:H7 demonstrated that in the U.S., government officials, cider producers, interest groups and the public were actively involved in reforming and reducing the risk associated with unpasteurized apple cider. In Canada, media coverage was limited and government agencies inadequately managed and communicated relevant updates or new documents to the industry and the public.

Therefore, a survey was conducted with fifteen apple cider producers in Ontario, Canada, to gain a better understanding of production practices and information sources. Small, seasonal operations in Ontario produce approximately 20,000 litres of cider per year. Improper processing procedures were employed by some operators, including the use of unwashed apples and not using sanitizers or labeling products accurately.

Most did not pasteurize or have additional safety measures. Larger cider producers ran year-long, with some producing in excess of 500,000 litres of cider. Most sold to large retail stores and have implemented safety measures such as HACCP plans, cider testing and pasteurization. All producers surveyed received government information on an irregular basis, and the motivation to ensure safe, high-quality apple cider was influenced by financial stability along with consumer and market demand, rather than by government enforcement.