A Self-Assessment Workbook for Producers of Apples, Juice and Cider

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As a food producer, you can make important contributions to a safe food supply by following good practices in producing and processing apples. Outbreaks of food-borne illness from fresh fruits and vegetables, and unpasteurized cider have steadily increased in recent years (7,10,15). New guidelines aimed at reducing food safety risks are being developed for all groups involved in our food system. Although it is not possible to guarantee complete elimination of harmful pathogens, improved practices can greatly reduce potential contamination from bacteria (Escherichia coli (E. coli) 0157:H7, Listeria, and Salmonella, etc.), viruses (hepatitis A and Norwalk), parasites (Cryptosporidium and Cyclospora) and other microorganisms. Growers can also help insure food safety by following good pest management practices to prevent potential pesticide residues. Whether you sell fresh fruit or make cider, this checklist will help you reduce food safety risks.
Microbial contamination of fresh fruit may occur during any part of the production process from field operations to transport to market. Many sources of harmful microorganisms may be hidden or overlooked in your operation. Be alert for potential contamination from your irrigation and processing water, manure and compost fertilizers, animal feces, dropped or decayed fruit, unclean containers and equipment, inadequate worker hygiene or nearby livestock operations. While pathogens can live on the surface of the apples, they may also enter the fruit and survive in the core.
With a food safety assessment under your belt, you will have taken an important step in understanding if your operation has a “High” or “Low” risk for microbial or pesticide contamination. Build on this assessment by periodically reviewing your operation to discover further opportunities to improve your management. By taking voluntary action, you will provide assurance to regulators, retailers and consumers that you are serious about food safety, and reducing risks can help avoid legal problems (2,11).

G. Baird Wireman
D. Granatstein
E. Kirby
E. Adams
Washington State University Cooperative Extension