The overall objective of this proposed work is to quantify,to the extent possible, the impact of new federal regulations concerning the safe production of juices and on the incidence of hazards of public health concern. The Michigan apple juice processing industry will be used as a model.
We chose the to focus on the apple juice industry based on 1) the history of foodborne illness outbreaks associated with apple juice and cider, and 2) our strong connections to the industry in Michigan. Although the proposed work will focus on apple juice products, the results of this research should be readily applicable to other fruit and vegetable juice products and to HACCP implementation in general.
We will pursue the following specific aims: <ol> <li>Determine the incidence of selected microbial hazards in apple juice and apple cider products.
<li>Survey the production and processing practices of apple processors to determine if these are correlated to the observed incidence and magnitude of food safety hazards.
<li>Conduct intensive in-line and environmental sampling in four apple juice and cider processing facilities to determine the impact of production and processing steps on hazard incidence and magnitude.
<li>Survey the attitudes and perceptions of HACCP and juice safety among processors, regulatory personnel, and consumers.
<li>Use the accrued information from aims 1-4 to derive semi-quantitative risk assessments and drive risk management decision-making by juice processors.
<li>Use information derived from aims 1-5 to further develop and refine HACCP training curricula and resources for the juice industry.</ol>
The incidence of microbiological hazards will be surveyed in apple juice and cider products. Samples obtained from retail outlets (200/year) will include a variety of apple juice products, ranging from thermally processed shelf-stable products to fresh apple cider. Samples from farm markets (200/year) will include both pasteurized and non-pasteurized apple cider. Samples will be obtained at a number of locations and times throughout each year. These samples will be analyzed for microbiological characteristics, indicator organisms, and organisms that are direct health hazards (aerobic plate count, total coliforms, generic E. coli, and Salmonella).Information on apple production and processing practices used by apple cider and juice manufacturers in Michigan will also be collected. The information will be obtained by direct interviews of the juice processors (50). Data derived from the questionnaire will be coded and correlated with hazard incidence data obtained under specific aim1 for juice products from the same processing plants. This work will allow us to correlate production and processing practices with the incidence and levels of microbiological hazards. To gain a greater understanding of the influence of processing conditions on hazard incidence in apple juice products, we will conduct intensive in-line and environmental sampling in four processing plants. Processing plants participating in this phase of the project will be sampled on two occasions during each year of the project. Tentatively,we would anticipate these times to be September/October and December/January of all three years (based on the seasonal production of apple cider). These samples will be analyzed for aerobic plate count, total coliforms, generic E. coli, and Salmonella. Personal interviews will be conducted with cider processors (25) and regulators (25) in Michigan in both the first and third year of the project. Interviews conducted in the first year will be used to develop outreach materials, as well as inform other components of the research, including surveys with consumers and interviews with regulators. Interviews in the third year will be conducted with the same processors and regulators to evaluate efforts toward raising awareness and compliance, as well as informing future efforts. Interview questions will focus on awareness and implementation of HACCP, perceived strengths and weaknesses of the system, perceptions, discussions of HACCP with other processors or regulators, and other factors which may impact perceptions of HACCP. Residents of Michigan (approximately 1,000) also will be surveyed by telephone as a means of gathering information on consumer attitudes,perceptions, and understanding toward juice product options and toward HACCP practices of juice processors. Information gathered from this research will be utilized in risk assessment models to assess the impact of processing technologies and agricultural practices on microbiological hazards in juice products. This information also will be infused into HACCP training curricula and programs offered to juice processors.