In response to increasing concerns about microbial safety of apple cider, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has mandated treatment of cider sufficient for a 5-log reduction of the target pathogen. Pasteurization has been suggested as the treatment most likely to achieve a 5-log reduction, with Escherichia coli O157:H7 as the target pathogen. Regulators and processors need a reliable method for verifying pasteurization, and apple cider polyphenol oxidase (PPO) activity was studied as a potential intrinsic index for thermal pasteurization. The effect of pasteurization conditions and apple cider properties on PPO activity and survival of three pathogens ( E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes) was studied using a Box-Behnken response surface design. Factors considered in the design were pasteurization conditions, i.e., hold temperature (60, 68, and 76° C), preheat time (10, 20, 30 s), and hold time (0, 15, 30 s), pH, and sugar content (° Brix) of apple cider. Response surface contour plots were constructed to illustrate the effect of these factors on PPO activity and pathogen survival. Reduction in PPO activity of at least 50% was equivalent to a 5-log reduction in E. coli O157:H7 or L. monocytogenes for cider at pH 3.7 and 12.5 ° Brix. Further studies, however, are needed to verify the relationship between PPO activity and pathogen reduction in cider with various pH and ° Brix values.

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