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NACMCF Recommendations on Fresh Juice

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April 9, 1997

The Fresh Produce Subcommittee (FPS) of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF--the Committee) met in a drafting session the morning of December 18, 1996 to consider the safety of all juices in light of the information and discussion provided during the December 16 and 17, 1996, open public meeting on Current Science and Technology on Fresh Juices. The FPS risk conclusions were based on documented outbreaks of illness associated with consumption of contaminated juices. These data were presented and discussed during the open public meeting.

Many aspects affect pathogen control: agricultural practices; product handling; equipment used; growing location, including produce obtained from below ground (carrots), on ground (e.g., drops), or from trees; pH; acidulants; method of processing; degree of animal contact; refrigeration; packaging; and the distribution system. In determining the best control mechanisms it is important to remember that the conditions for microbial survival differ from those for growth.

NACMCF conclusions:

  1. The Committee concludes that while the risks associated with specific juices vary, there are safety concerns associated with juices, especially unpasteurized juices.
  2. The Committee concludes that the history of public health problems associated with fresh juices indicates a need for active safety interventions.
  3. The Committee concludes that, for some fruit, intervention may be limited to surface treatment, but for others, additional interventions may be required.
  4. The Committee recommends the use of safety performance criteria instead of mandating the use of a specific intervention technology. In the absence of specific pathogen-product associations, the committee recommends the use of Escherichia coli O157:H7 or Listeria monocytogenes as the target organisms, as appropriate.
  5. The Committee believes that a tolerable 1evel of risk may be achieved by requiring an intervention(s) that has been validated to achieve a cumulative 5 log reduction in the target pathogen(s) or a reduction in yearly risk of illness to less than 10-5, assuming consumption of 100 ml of juice daily.
  6. The Committee believes that Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) and safety performance criteria form the general conceptual framework needed to assure the safety of juices. Control measures should be based on a thorough hazard analysis. Validation of the process must be an integral part of this framework.
  7. The Committee recommends mandatory HACCP for all juice products. Implicit in this recommendation is that plants have implemented and are strictly adhering to industry GMPs.
  8. The Committee recommends industry education programs addressing basic food microbiology, the principles of cleaning and sanitizing equipment, GMPs and HACCP
  9. The Committee recommends further study in the following areas:
    • Research on the efficacy of new technologies and intervention strategies for safety.
    • Research on the contamination, survival and growth of pathogens on produce with or without breaks in skin, areas of rot, and within the core.
    • Research on how produce becomes contaminated with human pathogens including the relevant microbial ecology during production and processing of juice. In particular, there is an urgent need for these types of studies on E. coli O157:H7 in apple juice.
    • Baseline studies on the incidence of human pathogens on fruits and vegetables, particularly those used in juice processing.
    • Research on labeling information needed for consumer understanding and choice of safer juices and juice products.

On the basis of all the testimony presented at the December 16 and 17, 1996 public meeting, the members agreed that there is a need to understand the differences among all juice and juice products, e.g. citrus vs. other. A significant problem identified by the Committee is that consumers presently do not have a means to clearly differentiate between unpasteurized and pasteurized products. Terms used to refer to juice products do not always have universal meanings, e.g. the term "cider" is perceived to be an unpasteurized product whereas the term "juice" is often perceived to be pasteurized.

Traditional heat treatments given to juices and juice products have been designed to achieve shelf stability, to remove water (concentration) or other quality-related factors. These treatments, commonly referred to as pasteurization, are greatly in excess of a process needed to inactivate foodborne pathogens.

Because of the lack of sufficient data to evaluate the effectiveness of labeling statements for safety interventions or to inform consumer choice, the Committee could not strongly endorse labeling as an interim safety measure.

Transcripts of Public Meeting on Current Science & Technology on Fresh Juices (each about 400 Kbytes) 16 December 1996, 17 December 1996

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