ARCHIVED - Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/Cider

Appendix 1: Summary of the Findings of the Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/Cider Policy Evaluations

Two evaluations (following the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 apple seasons) were conducted, mainly by an independent evaluation group. They worked closely with members of Health Canada during the two evaluations to identify and gather information to help decision-makers determine whether the July 2000 policy was effectively achieving its intended goals.

Note: Health Canada (HC) adopted the Unpasteurized Juice/Cider Policy on July 13, 2000 (Policy ID 2000-FD-01), to achieve the following goals:

  1. reduce the possibility of illness and potential death associated with the consumption of unpasteurized juice/cider in the general public and susceptible populations.
  2. reduce the possibility of contamination of unpasteurized juice/cider by harmful microorganisms such as E. coli O157:H7.
  3. respect informed consumer choice.

Consumption of Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/Cider

In 2000-2001 an estimated 10% (~ 3 million) of Canadians did consume or may have consumed the product at least once during the previous year. In 2001-2002, this rate was essentially the same. Overall, consumption among vulnerable groups was similar to that of the total Canadian population: about 9% in each of the evaluations. However, substantial differences in consumption rates were observed among the three susceptible groups.

The percentage of children under 6 years who did consume or may have consumed unpasteurized fruit juice/cider was estimated at ~19-20 % over the two evaluations. In contrast, the percentage of those over 65 years of age who reported consumption of unpasteurized fruit juice/cider ranged between 5-7% over the two evaluations, a rate considerably lower than that among children under 6. Among the immunocompromised in the susceptible group, the rate was lower again at approximately 1% over the two evaluations.

Source: June 2002 ARC Applied Research Consultants. Exhibit III-2 : Percentage of Individuals by Unpasteurized Juice Consumption Status and by "At-risk" Characteristic of Individual. In Further evaluation of the Health Canada policy on unpasteurized juice/cider. pg 13.

Further calculation: 9% consumption x 6 million at-risk individuals in the Canadian population =540,000 vulnerable consumers consisting of children under 6 years, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems

The Code of Practice

Over the two seasons, more than 95% of unpasteurized juice processors responding to surveys conducted as part of the policy evaluations reported that they were aware of this Code of Practice. As well, 72% of responding processors indicated that they were in full compliance with this Code of Practice during the 2001-02 season, and an additional 28% (100% - 72% = 28%) indicated that they were in partial compliance. For the same season, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reported that 66% of processors whose establishments they inspected received compliance ratings that required no follow-up action. Note however, that some caution is needed in the interpretation of these findings. For several reasons, including low response rates and missing data, they are not considered representative of the unpasteurized fruit juice/cider industry as a whole.

Sampling results nation-wide based on CFIA data, did not detect the presence of E. coli O157:H7 or Salmonella spp. in any product sampled over the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons, regardless of processor-compliance with the Code. However, incoming data from one of the provinces, which shared inspection duties with the CFIA, indicated that E. coli O157:H7 was detected in one container of unpasteurized fruit cider during cider surveillance in the 2001-02 season.

Labelling

Based on responses to processor surveys conducted during the two evaluations, it can be estimated that approximately 25% of the total volume of Canadian unpasteurized fruit juice/cider produced subsequent to the July 2000 HC Policy has not been labelled as "Unpasteurized". As well, there are several reasons to believe that the figure of 25% may be an under-estimate of the actual percentage of unpasteurized fruit juice/cider which has not been voluntarily labelled as "Unpasteurized" since July 2000.

Joint Effects of the Education Campaign and Labelling as Unpasteurized

An estimated 77-80% of Canadian households are not aware of the potential health risks associated with consumption of unpasteurized fruit juice/cider, and an estimated 91-92% of Canadian households are not aware of ways to reduce the potential risks. These evaluation findings apply to households with at least one member at risk of becoming seriously ill following consumption of contaminated unpasteurized fruit juice/cider, as well as to households with no at-risk members. There does not appear to have been any cumulative increase in awareness attributable to continued exposure to the education campaign during a second unpasteurized fruit juice/cider season.

With 23% (100% - 77% = 23%) of Canadian households aware of potential risks associated with consumption of unpasteurized juice/cider and 75% of juice/cider labelled as "Unpasteurized", 17% (75% x 23% =17%) of Canadian households can make an informed choice about purchase/consumption of unpasteurized juice/cider. By simple difference, this means that 83% cannot make an informed purchase/choice. Of this 83%, the majority (77% of all households) cannot make an informed choice because they are not aware of the messages of the Education Component of the Unpasteurized Juice/Cider Policy. An additional 6% of households (25% x 23% of aware households = 6%) cannot make an informed choice because they cannot locate unpasteurized juice/cider with this identifying information. (Note: These findings apply equally to households with one or more susceptible members.)

Conclusion

The results indicate that the main limitation associated with the policy is a lack of consumer knowledge about the risks of consuming unpasteurized fruit juice/cider. This is compounded by inconsistent labelling that would allow the product in question to be identified as unpasteurized. Without both knowledge and labelling information, consumer health protection and choice were found to be limited.

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