Discontent Brews over Cider Labeling Local Apple Growers Say FDA's Request for Warnings Unnecessary
Heidenrich, Chris, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Chris Heidenrich Daily Herald Staff Writer
The federal Food and Drug Administration is not the apple of Wauconda Orchards owner Rick Breeden's eye these days.
Breeden and some other Lake County apple growers are objecting to the FDA's request this week that cider producers place labels on their product, warning it has not been pasteurized to kill the E. coli bacteria. E. coli was the culprit in an outbreak involving unpasteurized apple juice last fall in several western states that sickened 66 people and killed a child.
Local apple growers also fear the FDA will go a step further and require pasteurization - a heat treatment that will require expensive equipment and kill cider's distinctive taste.
Breeden, whose apple trees produce 25,000 gallons of cider a year, said 98 percent of cider producers in Illinois already have taken measures to protect against E. coli during production.
"I want people to know the facts, and to know that apple cider is safe, and people do not have to worry about it," said Alan Quig, owner of Quig's Orchards in Mundelein.
Both orchard owners worry their industry and smaller cider producers are the target of excessive government regulation. They worry about the possibility of even more regulation.
FDA officials say they are merely trying to inform the public of potential risk, and mandatory pasteurization is not in its plans.
Triggering the concern is last fall's E. coli outbreak. It was one of four outbreaks then, and the latest in what appears to be a growing presence of the bacteria in cider in the past 10 to 15 years, FDA spokesman Arthur Whitmore said.
In preliminary findings, the Centers for Disease Control determined the bacteria can appear in cider through contaminated well water and apples that land on the ground and touch animal feces, said Julia Daly of the U.S. Apple Association.
Before the end of the year, the FDA plans to ask all fresh juice makers to adopt specific safety programs during production. …