ARCHIVED - Stakeholder Information Paper -- Labelling of Unpasteurized Fruit Juice Cider

Postal Locator 2203G3
Sir F.G. Banting Research Centre
Tunney's Pasture
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0L2

Subject: Consultation on the proposed modifications to Health Canada's Policy "Managing Health Risks Associated with the Consumption of Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/ Cider."

To: All Interested Parties

Health Canada is holding an open consultation on the policy "Managing Health Risk Associated with the Consumption of Unpasteurized Fruit Juice/Cider." The purpose of this consultation is to obtain the views of all interested parties regarding 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. The scope of products that would be affected are described in the consultation workbook.

To help with the consultation process, all stakeholders are kindly invited to provide direct feedback to the eight questions found throughout the workbook. The feedback to this consultation will be summarized and posted on the Health Canada Web site. Any personal information that may be collected in this consultation is subject to the Privacy Act.

Could you please provide comments to the Food Directorate, Health Canada no later than December 16, 2005.

The Issue

In 1996, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 from unpasteurized apple cider affected consumers in Western Canada and the United States, 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 poor hygienic practices, and that the probability of contamination with these pathogens can be reduced to a minimum using Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices. The most likely means of contamination is through direct contact of fruit and/or juice with animal/human feces, or through indirect contact with contaminated water, food handlers, or soiled equipment.

The Existing Policy

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."
  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 improve the safety of these products for all Canadian consumers, particularly those who are most vulnerable, while allowing for informed consumer choice.

Policy Evaluations

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. 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, i.e., that there are some health risks associated with the consumption of these products and that actions, such as bringing the product to a boil, can be taken to reduce the risks.

Proposed Modifications

The first of the three components of the July 2000 Unpasteurized Juice/Cider Policy would still apply:

1) A voluntary Code of Practice.

Modifications to the remaining two components are being considered as follows:

2) Mandatory statement indicating the product is unpasteurized, in addition to regular labelling. Statement wording would be determined based on input from this consultation.

3) An enhanced education campaign would be developed and implemented by Health Canada, in collaboration with both CFIA and the Provincial/Territorial officials in order to respect informed consumer choice by increasing the knowledge of consumers on the potential health risks of consuming unpasteurized fruit juice/cider products.

We thank you in advance for your participation in this consultation and for your interest in this issue.

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