Best Practices for the Production of Sweet Apple Cider - Apple Management

The production of safe, high-quality sweet apple cider starts with sound apple management. Follow practices outlined below to grow safe, high quality apples that produce sweet apple cider that is safe to consume.

Contaminants - Why Apple Management is Important

Poor apple management can increase the chance that harmful bacteria such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella, and parasites such as Cryptosporidium, can contaminate your apples. These micro-organisms can cause serious illness, especially in the young, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems. Contaminated apples produce contamined cider.

Neither the acid content of cider nor freezing can eliminate these pathogenic organisms. Pathogens are much too small to be seen, so even if apples look clean, they may still be carrying pathogens.

Contaminants can be introduced to apples through:

  • Contact with fecal waste from animals and birds
  • The orchard ground (both from the soil and fecal matter)
  • Contaminated water
  • Contaminated containers and equipment
  • Unsanitary handling practices

In addition to biological contaminants, another contaminant concern in sweet apple cider is patulin. Patulin is a toxic chemical produced by a number of moulds such as Penicillium and Aspergillus. It may be found on bruised, damaged, mouldy or rotting apples. This toxin can induce acute illness and at high concentrations is suspected of being lethal in young children.

Fallen apples and improperly stored apples are particularly susceptible to patulin contamination. Patulin is relatively heat stable and is not destroyed by pasteurization. Consequently, it can be found in both pasteurized and unpasteurized cider products.

Good Apple Management Practices

Orchard Management

  • Try to avoid fertilizing orchards with manure. If used, never fertilize with fresh manure; use only manure that is adequately composted
  • To adequately compost manure, carefully manage and monitor the process to ensure it is uniformly heated to at least 55°C for three days, the length of time necessary to kill pathogens
  • Never allow animals to graze in orchards
  • Use fencing to keep domestic and wild animals out of orchards
  • Use deterrent devices to prevent birds from roosting in trees
  • Use water of acceptable microbiological quality (less than 1,000 total coliforms per 100 ml) to irrigate orchards and for pesticide application
  • Use only approved pesticides and apply according to label directions

Harvesting Practices

  • Never use apples that have been in contact with the ground. This includes apples that have dropped to the orchard floor (grounders) and apples that remain attached to lower branches. but have been in contact with ground. None of these should ever be used in cider production
  • Use only quality apples. Reject apples with visible dirt, animal or bird excrement, bruising, damage, mould or disease.
  • Clean, sanitize and dry containers (plastic or wood bins/totes, baskets) before each use. Remember to clean runners on the bottom of bins.
  • Use plastic bins which can be cleaned and sanitized rather than wood bins
  • To prevent bruising, carefully place apples in clean containers
  • Maintain and inspect containers regularly - discard damaged containers
  • Ensure good personal hygiene practices are followed, particularly hand washing prior to, and during, apple handling

Transportation Practices

  • Use vehicles and bins that are in good condition and made from cleanable materials
  • Move loaded bins to covered storage as soon as possible after harvest
  • Store empty bins in a clean area, free from pests
  • Handle containers carefully to avoid physical damage to the apples
  • Use closed or covered vehicles for road transportation of apples

Fruit Storage Practices

  • Clean and sanitize storage facilities before harvest
  • Prevent the entrance of pests and rodents to storage facilities
  • Place fruit in refrigerated storage facility immediately after harvest
  • Maintain storage facility at a temperature between 0 and 4°C
  • Keep a refrigerated storage temperature record
  • Press apples as soon as possible; stored apples increase in pH over time, which favours the growth of disease-causing organisms

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: OMAFRA Staff
Creation Date: 19 October 2006
Last Reviewed: 19 February 2014