Iowa Cider Producers Make the Grade

June 25th, 2002

AMES, Iowa - Apple cider producers in Iowa have taken precautions to make their processing methods safe and sanitary. That's the finding of a recent survey conducted by Iowa State University researchers.

During the past two growing seasons, Iowa State food scientists Alecia Cummins, Cheryll Reitmeier, Lester Wilson and Bonita Glatz visited five apple orchards. Samples of apples from various points in the cider production process were collected and tested for the presence of microorganisms.

The researchers found pasteurization significantly reduced the presence of microorganisms, including yeast and molds, aerobic bacteria and coliforms. No E. coli bacteria were found in the sampled cider. All five producers sampled added the preservative potassium sorbate to their cider, which drastically reduced the presence of bacteria.

Production processes also were observed during the orchard visits, with improvements in manufacturing and sanitation practices found from the first season to the second.

In addition to the orchard visits, questionnaires were sent to Iowa-certified apple cider producers.

Overall, those who responded to the questionnaire use sound orchard management practices and incorporate methods such as applying apple sanitizers, temperature control, filtration, adding preservatives and pasteurization to lower the risk of contamination.

The majority of the producers store and sort their apples before processing, bottle the cider by hand and filter the cider. More than half said they use pasteurization to reduce pathogens. Most respondents were owners of small operations, producing from 3,000 to 85,000 gallons of cider per year. The costs of pasteurization can be prohibitive for those who process less than 20,000 gallons of cider per year.

The survey showed that none of the producers uses manure to fertilize their orchards. Also, most do not use drop or windfall apples to produce their cider.

The survey was conducted as part of a bigger project that addresses consumer concerns about bacterial contamination and pesticide residues that have decreased apple and cider production in the state. The project aims to strengthen the economic viability of apple growers and cider processors while enhancing the quality and safety of their products.

Contacts: 

Cheryll Reitmeier, Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294-4325

Lester Wilson, Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294-3889

Bonita Glatz, Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294-3970

Susan Thompson, Communications Service, (515) 294-0705