Wine and alcoholic apple cider are commonly back-sweetened with unpasteurized juice to produce fresh, natural, and palatable sweetened alcoholic beverages. Foodborne pathogens may be introduced from unpasteurized juice into alcoholic beverages through this back-sweetening process. Although foodborne pathogens generally do not survive under low pH conditions or a high alcohol environment, the die-off of these pathogens has not been established to ensure the microbiological safety of the products. To establish the holding conditions that would provide the required 5-log pathogen reduction requirements for these back-sweetened beverages, we evaluated the survival of three common foodborne pathogens, E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella enterica, and Listeria monocytogenes, in modified white grape juice and apple juice models. White grape juice and apple juice were modified with hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide and with ethanol to achieve conditions that are similar to back-sweetened white wine and alcoholic apple cider in regard to pH and ethanol content. Foodborne pathogen cocktails were inoculated separately into modified juice models, and their survival in the juice models was recorded over a 96-h period. Our results show that a combination of low pH and high ethanol content resulted in faster pathogen die-off compared with higher pH and lower ethanol conditions. The holding times required for different combinations of pH and ethanol concentration for each juice model to achieve a 5-log reduction were reported. This research provides data to validate pathogen die-off to comply with juice hazard analysis and critical control point 5-log pathogen inactivation requirements for back-sweetened wine and alcoholic apple cider.
pH and ethanol content are important factors in determining pathogen die-off.
Holding times to achieve a 5-log reduction of three pertinent pathogens are reported.
For pH 4, 12% alcohol back-sweetened white wine, holding time is 36 h.
For pH 3.7, 8.5% alcohol back-sweetened apple cider, holding time is 96 h.