Story missed smaller outbreaks

The article you have written on behalf of those favoring unpasteurized juice [November 13 cover story: "Pulp Friction"] detailed a crucial fact: apple cider is a byproduct business of the apple growing business. Seldom, if ever, does someone's livelihood rely on producing cider. Juice is a minor side industry for most apple producers; growing apples is the livelihood.

Your article ignored several critical outbreaks that prove that the regulations passed to improve cider safety were absolutely essential:

1991 - Outbreak in Boston.

1996 - Not just the Odwalla outbreak but four separate outbreaks from unpasteurized apple juice occurred.

1997 - After juicers are requested to voluntarily place warning labels on juice, E. coli O157:H7-contaminated cider is recalled in Michigan.

1999 - After the juice producers have been educated extensively about the hazards, and after they have put warning labels on the juice, consumers are poisoned in Wyoming from unpasteurized cider.

2002 - After laws requiring microbial elimination in packaged juice, a Connecticut roadside stand cider producer poisons people again.

In seven out of nine outbreaks, the infectious agent was E. coli O157:H7, a virulent organism and biohazard which can and does result in multiple organ failure, strokes, acute kidney failure, and permanent cardiovascular damage. This list excludes poisonings in Canada from unpasteurized cider, and it also ignores outbreaks that go unconnected, while children are hospitalized from "unknown" sources.

Nowhere does your article describe industry efforts to clean up "dirty" producers after the 1996 outbreaks. This is because all industry efforts focused on educating producers rather than policing industry. When consumer groups lobbied to ensure that only the highest quality apples were used in minimally treated apple juice, industry was silent.

Consumers need protection from cider producers who don't know and don't understand how and why so many children have almost died and why one did die in these egregious outbreaks.

I know the details of one outbreak intimately. I held one of those children's hands as my daughter fought for her life after she was poisoned with E. coli O157:H7 in the Odwalla outbreak. Every day I thank God that I still have her and that FDA regulations stand between cider producers and other children who would have been next.

Laurie Girand
Produce Program Manager, Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.) and mother of Anna, a victim of E. coli contaminated, Odwalla apple juice
Saratoga, CA
produce@safetables.org

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