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 pathogens generally do not survive under low pH conditions or high alcohol environment, the die-off of these pathogens has not been established to ensure the safety of the products. To determine the safety of 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/sodium hydroxide and ethanol to achieve conditions that are similar to the back-sweetened white wine and alcoholic apple cider. Pathogen cocktails were inoculated separately into modified juice models and their survival in the juice models were recorded over a 96-hour period. Our results show that a combination of low pH and high ethanol content resulted in a faster pathogen die-off compared to higher pH and lower ethanol conditions. The holding times required for different combinations of pH and ethanol concentration for each juice model to achieve 5-log reduction were reported. This research provides data to validate pathogen die-off to comply with Juice HACCP 5-log pathogen inactivation requirements for back-sweetened wine and alcoholic apple cider.
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