At the Great Maine Apple Day in October, Marilyn Meyerhans, Bob Sewall and Mark Fulford shared their experiences in making cider and with the increasingly complex regulatory world that surrounds cider.
For a decade, the FDA has been tightening restrictions around cider production, resulting in fewer and fewer options for people who want to press their own apples into cider or get unpasteurized cider. This year, Sewall’s Orchards was visited by FDA and had to agree to give up any wholesale accounts to be in compliance with FDA rules (link below).
Marilyn Meyerhans (The Apple Farm, Lakeside Orchard) and members of the Maine Pomological Society fought the original rules, accumulating thick files of correspondence and related paperwork. Essentially, FDA has enacted a rule that requires all fruit juices marketed through wholesale channels to achieve a “5-log reduction” in pathogens – a result that can be achieved only through some form of pasteurization. Originally focused on E. coli O157:H7, the FDA is now looking at “patulins” – mycotoxins produced by some diseases, such as sooty blotch – as problems. The Meyerhans now pasteurize because they have wholesale accounts.
Sewall is obviously frustrated by the changes. “Cider is a living food. What do you lose? Enzymes. The ability to ferment properly and [have the cider] become vinegar.” They’re “out to destroy it. It makes us all criminals.” Pure cider kills E. coli, and some people drink apple cider vinegar when they’re sick, said Sewall.
Fulford takes a similar stand. “What are we getting with organic if we can’t fight for live and real foods?” Beef is fraught with nightmares for our health, said Fulford, and corporate interests are determined to put small farms out of business. “We have to take back the quality of our food supply!”
The dozens of people in the room obviously agreed. They discussed how to build home presses in order to have the food they can’t buy. MOFGA will look for ways to showcase those in the year ahead. Another discussion involved changing policy, first by letting legislators and public officials know that you want access to unpasteurized cider in retail stores. Also, support farmers and orchardists who are selling unpasteurized cider directly.
The FDA regulations are posted at www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/juicgu14.html); the Maine law, Title 7: Statutory References re Cider, is at https://janus.state.me.us/legis/statutes/7/title7sec543-A.html; and the Maine Dept. of Agriculture Rules re Cider are at www.maine.gov/agriculture/qar/food-regs.html (scroll down to Ch. 342).
– Russell Libby