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Report of 1997 Inspections of Fresh, Unpasteurized Apple Cider Manufacturers, Summary of Results - Inspection Findings

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January 1999

Table of Contents

Profile of Firms Inspected

A total of 237 inspections were conducted in 32 states. The five states with the largest number of cider processors inspected were Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Connecticut and Maine were next with eight and nine firms inspected respectively. The distribution of inspections by state is shown in Table 1.

Most processors inspected were also growers that used their own apples to press cider. Forty (40) processors (17%) purchased their apples from other sources. Eleven (11) firms were reported to be contract processors who exclusively pressed apples owned by someone else.

Table 1. Number of Firms Inspected by FDA in Each State
State # State # State # State #
Alabama 1 Kansas 2 North Carolina 1 Rhode Island 2
California 4

Kentucky 6

New Hampshire 4

Tennessee 1





New Jersey


Texas 1

Delaware 2

Maryland 3

New Mexico 1

Utah 1





New York


Virginia 4

Idaho 2

Michigan 26

Ohio 27

Vermont 1







Washington 3

Indiana 7

Missouri 4

Pennsylvania 34

Wisconsin 3




Most processors sold their product locally either on-site at their retail outlet (54%) or at other local retail outlets (44%). Twenty-one percent sold wholesale and 16 % of the firms sold in interstate commerce. The distributions of the firms by type of business and point of sales are shown in Figures 1 and 2 respectively.

Figure 1. Type of Business

Bar graph showing the distribution of firms by type of business and point of sales

Figure 2. Point of Sales

Bar graph showing the distributions of the firms by point of sales

The annual volume of product of the firms varied between 250 and 500,000 gallons per year. Thirteen percent (13%) of the firms produced more than 40,000 gallons per year. Fifty-three percent (53%) of the firms produced 10,000 gallons or less per year. The distribution of firms by the amount produced annually is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Distribution of Firms by Annual Volume

Bar graph showing The distribution of firms by the amount produced annually

Harvesting Practices

The inspections revealed that manure was not used by the firms inspected with one exception where composted manure was used. However, 72% of the firms reported that deer grazed in their orchards or there were domestic animals grazing on adjacent properties.

Two-thirds of the firms relied upon natural rainfall and did not irrigate their orchards. The 33% that irrigated were evenly divided between those that used some type of spray or some type of drip or channel irrigation. Most firms irrigated only during the summer growing season and not when harvesting. The proportion of firms that irrigated and the type used are shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Type of Irrigation

Bar graph showing the proportion of firms that irrigated and the type used

The source of water used by the 65 firms that irrigated included municipal, well and surface supplies that were tested (33%) and untested well and surface supplies (67%). The distribution of firms by source of irrigation water used is shown in Figure 5. Information on source of irrigation water was not reported for 40 firms.

Figure 5. Source of Irrigation Water

Bar graph showing the distribution of firms by source of irrigation water used

The U.S. Apple Association conducted a survey of industry practices and reported to FDA that in 1996 approximately 47% of the 689 firms responding used some drop apples for their fresh cider production. During FDA’s 1997 inspections, many processors reported being concerned about the safety of their product and had stopped using drops. However, drops were sold to firms that pasteurized their apple cider or juice. Overall, 37% of the firms inspected reported using drops, although many used them infrequently or as a small percentage (e.g. 10%) of the total apples used. The distribution of firms using drops is shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Use of Drops for Cider

Bar graph showing the distribution of firms using drops for cider

Processors reported to FDA that they took care in selecting the apples for cider. Less than 1% of the firms were observed to have unwholesome apples in their crates of apples from the orchards. Processors also reported that harvesters are instructed to pick only wholesome apples, and if drops are used, only to use recent drops. Drops collected by machines were not used.

Receiving Raw Materials

The inspections revealed that 80% of the firms inspected apples upon receipt and held them in sanitary containers. Sixty percent of the firms do not apply any additional controls to the apples at the sorting and receiving phase of the operation, except in a few instances where the holding environment is refrigerated. Ninety-one firms (39%) washed their apples upon receipt, including all of the 82 firms using drops. Of these firms that washed, 19 also brushed the apples, and 33 sanitized the apples with chlorine. The number and percentage of firms washing, brushing, and sanitizing their apples at the receiving phase is shown in Table 2. Of the 91 firms that washed, 18 (8%) of the total used water from a private source that had not been tested for microbiological contamination in the past year including one firm that used pond water.

Most firms applied additional processing controls just before chopping and pressing. The first control applied was culling the apples to remove any badly bruised, rotten, damaged or wormy apples. Ninety-one percent of the firms discarded such apples. Nine percent of the firms allowed bruised and rotten apples, leaves and stems, and, in one instance, dirt to enter the grinder/chopper. In four cases bruised spots were cut out and the apples were used for pressing.

Table 2. Frequency of Washing Apples Upon Receipt.
Type of Washing Provided No. %
No washing upon receipt 138 60
No washing but brushed upon receipt 2 1
Washing upon receipt 51 22
Washing and brushing upon receipt 7 3
Washing and sanitizing upon receipt 21 9
Washing, brushing, and sanitizing upon receipt 12 5
Unknown 6 --

The second control applied was washing apples immediately before chopping and pressing. The apples were washed by 84% of the processors. In most instances this involved a spray wash, but three dealers used a float tank or flume-type system. During washing 62% of the processors also wet-brushed the apples. Another 21% of the processors sanitized the apples with chlorine before crushing. The 16% of the firms that did not wash the apples before pressing also did not wash the apples upon receipt. The frequency of the application of these controls is shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Firms That Wash, Brush, and/or Sanitize Apples Immediately Before Pressing
Type of Controls Applied No. %
No washing 32 14
No washing but apples are dry brushed 5 2
Washing only 53 22
Washing and brushing 97 41
Washing, brushing, and sanitizing 50 21
Type of Water Used    
Tested water 166 83
Untested water 34 17

Equipment and Plant Sanitation

Generally, the processing equipment was properly constructed and in good sanitary condition. Eight percent of the firms were cited for improper equipment including using wood that was not properly maintained and easily cleaned, using non-food grade materials for hoses to transfer product, and using holding tanks that lacked protective covers. Although the proper type of equipment was used, the inspection at 33% of the processors revealed it was not being used in a sanitary manner. The equipment had not been adequately cleaned between uses and an organic residue was found on food contact surfaces. Other insanitary conditions included dirty brushes in the sprayer-brusher, equipment with flaking paint, and dirty conveyors.

Closely related to the sanitary condition of the equipment was the cleanliness of the processing area of the plant. In 31% of the firms, the inspections revealed some deficiencies in the cleaning in the processing area and inadequate cleaning and storage of press cloths.

The greatest number of inspectional observations related to environmental sanitation conditions. The inspections revealed that 41% of the firms had open passageways and entries into the processing area; flying insects on processing equipment and in unprotected vats holding finished product; birds, dogs and other animals in the processing area; lack of hot water for cleaning; inadequate storage of chemicals; and/or insanitary storage of plastic containers. Of these conditions, open entryways and flying insects including bees and fruit flies, were the most prevalent deficiencies reported.

Deficiencies in employee hygiene were reported at 25% of the firms. The most common deficiencies were the failure to wash and sanitize hands when handling product, the lack of hand washing and hand sanitizing facilities, inadequate toilet facilities, employees eating or smoking in the processing area, and lack of proper protective clothing and hair restraints. The frequency with which these insanitary conditions were reported is shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Firms With Sanitation Deficiencies.

Bar graph showing the percentage of firms with sanitation deficiencies


Preservatives were used by 27% of the firms inspected. Of these firms, 63% used potassium sorbate, and 27% used sodium benzoate. Several firms only used preservatives at the request of their customer or for certain accounts.


On August 28, 1997 FDA issued a notice of intent in the Federal Register to develop an interim warning statement requirement for juice beverages. The notice asked the cider industry, as a voluntary public health service to their customers, to begin immediately labeling fresh apple juice and cider products with a warning statement of the risk. The purpose of the request was to reduce the risk of illness from disease-causing microbes in unpasteurized juices. The inspections revealed that 18% of the firms labeled their product as being unpasteurized. Another 9% and 5% respectively, provided a warning statement either on a sign in the retail area or in a pamphlet made available to the customer. The number of firms using labels of some type is shown on Figure 8.

Figure 8. Use of Recommended Warning Labels.

Bar graph showing the percentage of firms using different types of labels

The information used by most processors at their retail outlet was a leaflet produced by the U.S. Apple Association. The consumer information provided in this leaflet is as follows:

A Special Message to Our Special Customers:

You love apple cider --- that delicious, full-bodied beverage with that unmistakable caramel color. Cider has been enjoyed by Americans beginning with this country's first settlers, when cider was a staple of the colonial diet. And fresh apple cider fits right into today*s healthy lifestyles, because it is 100% fruit juice, sweetened only by Mother Nature, and is fat-free and cholesterol-free.

Outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 infection due to contaminated fresh (that is, unpasteurized) apple cider have been far fewer than those due to some other foods. Healthy adults don't usually experience severe effects. However, children, the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of complications from illness caused by this bacteria. These persons should take precautions to protect themselves from foods that might carry this bacteria.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that concerned consumers can reduce their risk of infection by first boiling fresh cider, or drinking pasteurized cider or juice. Bringing unpasteurized cider just to a boil is adequate.

The fresh cider industry is expanding efforts to protect their products and customers from contamination by harmful E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. You can be assured the industry is working hard to make sure that cider remains a healthful drink.

Producers, Retailers, Consumers.
We All Play a Role in Food Safety.

Sanitation Programs and Procedures

FDA inquired as to whether the processor had written standard operating procedures for sanitation controls (SSOP's), whether they were familiar with and following state-imposed good manufacturing practices, whether they had developed a HACCP plan, and whether they maintain any monitoring records documenting that these procedures where being implemented. The percentage of firms applying these management controls is shown in Figure 9.

Figure 9. Frequency of Use of Management Controls

Bar graph showing the percentage of firms applying some types of management controls

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