ARCHIVED - Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/Cider

Modifications to Health Canada's Policy "Managing Health Risk Associated with the Consumption of Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/Cider Products."

For Consideration by Stakeholders

Purpose of Consultation

In July 2000, the policy Managing Health Risk Associated with the Consumption of Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/Cider Products was put into place. As part of the Health Canada Decision-Making Framework for Identifying, Assessing, and Managing Health Risks, evaluations of the effectiveness of the policy took place in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002. Based on the results of these evaluations, Health Canada is proposing to make the policy stronger by developing and implementing an enhanced education campaign, and by making mandatory a statement indicating the product is unpasteurized, which could include an educational statement, in addition to regular labelling.

Note:
Regular labelling means labelling required under B.01 of the
Food and Drug Regulations
such as the common name, the durable life date, instructions for proper storage, ingredient list, etc.

The purpose of this consultation is to obtain the views of stakeholders regarding an enhanced education campaign, the proposed definition of "pasteurization", and the proposed mandatory labelling of unpasteurized fruit juice and cider products with a statement indicating the product is unpasteurized, as well as the wording of this potential label statement. This statement would be mandatory for all prepackaged unpasteurized fruit juice/cider that is offered for sale in Canada, including packaged products offered for sale at kiosks or juice bars, as well as prepackaged blends of fruit juices/ciders consisting in part, or whole, of unpasteurized fruit juice/cider. Excluded from this proposal is unpasteurized fruit juice/cider that is intended for further processing that will result in pasteurization, as well as unpasteurized vegetable juices.

The feedback to this consultation will be summarized and posted on the Health Canada Web site. If it is decided to move forward with the proposed modifications, the input received from this consultation will form the basis for drafting regulatory amendments to the Food and Drug Regulations. Any personal information that may be collected in this consultation is subject to the Privacy Act.

To help with the consultation process, all stakeholders are kindly invited to provide feedback to the eight questions found throughout the online workbook.

Stakeholders

This document is being circulated to interested and affected parties including the following: the unpasteurized and pasteurized juice and cider sectors and their industry associations; national Canadian health sectors; food retail and consumer associations; the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Committee on Food Safety Policy; the Canadian Food Inspection System Implementation Group, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Background Information

About five million litres of unpasteurized fruit juice/cider were sold in 2001-02 in Canada, of which roughly 4.2 million litres were unpasteurized apple juice/cider. Unpasteurized apple juice/cider production represents 5% of the total Canadian apple juice production volume. It is estimated that 10% of the Canadian population (~ 3 million people) consumes unpasteurized apple juice/cider. These products are usually sold to consumers at orchards, cider mills, farmers markets, roadside stands, country fairs and juice bars. Some unpasteurized apple juice/cider is also sold in refrigerated display cases or in produce sections of retail stores. Unpasteurized juice can also be imported, and some of these products have been responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks in Canada.

Note:

  1. Unpasteurized juice is the unfermented liquid (usually clarified) obtained from the pressing of properly prepared, sound, clean, mature fruit. It includes frozen juice.
  2. Unpasteurized cider is the unfermented, unclarified, untreated liquid obtained from the pressing of properly prepared sound, clean, mature fruit. It includes sweet and soft cider as well as frozen cider. It is not hard cider, which is a fermented product.

Traditionally, unpasteurized fruit juice/cider has been considered nonhazardous due to its acidic nature. The acidity of the product was thought by scientists to be an effective barrier against the survival of microorganisms responsible for food poisoning. However, as a result of the North American food poisoning outbreaks associated with unpasteurized fruit juice/cider, it has become clear that certain disease-causing microorganisms (called pathogens) such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7), Salmonella spp. and Cryptosporidium parvum (C. parvum), can survive these acidic conditions.

In 1996, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 from unpasteurized apple cider imported from the United States (U.S.) affected consumers in Western Canada and the U.S., resulting in a total of 70 illness cases, including one death. As a result of this and other outbreaks, Health Canada took action to determine the health risk associated with unpasteurized juice/cider commodities. The health risk assessment concluded that the risk of illness was low in the general population, but that illness could be quite severe if contaminated product was consumed by the more susceptible or vulnerable populations in our society such as the elderly, children and the immunocompromised.

The current scientific opinion is that contamination of these products results from direct contact of fruit and/or juice with animal/human feces, or through indirect contact with contaminated water, food handlers, or soiled equipment, and that the probability of contamination with these pathogens can be reduced to a minimum using Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices (GAPs/GMPs).

For public protection against the potential risks associated with the consumption of unpasteurized juice/cider, the policy Managing Health Risk Associated with the Consumption of Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/Cider Products was put into place in July 2000. The policy comprises three components:

  1. A voluntary Code of Practice;
  2. Voluntary labelling of juice/cider as "Unpasteurized"; and
  3. An education campaign to inform consumers about possible health risks associated with consumption of unpasteurized juice/cider and the actions that can be taken to reduce these risks.

The goals of this policy are to:

  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; and,
  3. respect informed consumer choice.

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. The policy evaluations found that 83% of Canadian households are unable to make an informed choice regarding unpasteurized juice/cider purchase or consumption. This is due to a combination of the absence of labelling indicating that a product is unpasteurized, and consumers being unaware of the messages of the education component of the Unpasteurized Juice/Cider Policy. Based on the evaluation findings, Health Canada concluded that the current policy was not effectively achieving its goals and is therefore proposing that it should be made stronger by moving to mandatory labelling of unpasteurized fruit juice/cider with a statement indicating the product is unpasteurized, in conjunction with an enhanced educational campaign. Appendix 1 summarizes the findings of the policy evaluations.

Consultation Workbook

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