A&L Peterson Orchards is working with Interior Health to bring its processing operations into compliance after the health authority issued a recall for apple juice produced at the Salmon Arm farm.
IH issued the recall on Nov. 8, stating it was due to unsanitary conditions during the manufacturing process.
No illnesses had been reported in relation to the product.
Prior to the recall, the health authority had conducted an inspection of A&L Peterson Orchards processing facility. Eight non-critical and three critical infractions turned up in the inspection.
The resulting Interior Health inspection report states employees were not using adequate hygiene; they were observed rinsing their hands in a plastic bucket filled with a murky substance, and that the sink was not being used for handwashing. Another hygiene concern was clothing; food-processing employees were wearing outdoor clothing such as toques and jackets, which the report states was not keeping with the level of hygiene expected to prevent contamination of food.
Also noted in the report are industry standards for fresh-pressed juice production which it says were not being followed at A&L Peterson. The report expresses concern with the condition of source apples and the cleanliness of the bins they were stored in. It also says the fruit was not being cleaned prior to processing and the sanitation requirements for the processing equipment and surfaces that come into contact with food were unsatisfactory.
The orchard uses a UV pasteurization system for the apple juice. Interior Health’s report states that batch and maintenance records for the pasteurization system were not available. It goes on to say that the best before dates listed on the apple juice bottles had not been lab validated. The inspection concluded that the juice-pressing operation at A&L Peterson kept no records to support food safety and sanitation processes.
Along with instances of non-compliance which are critical to food safety, other areas where the report found the practices at A&L Peterson unsatisfactory included the power-washing of processing equipment outdoors, and the storage of unrelated equipment and materials in the same building the juice is processed. The report states the open garage setting where the juice is processed does not meet food-safe standards
Allan Peterson, the owner of the orchard, said he recognizes the reasoning behind the order to stop producing the juice and agrees that he has to fix the record keeping surrounding the pasteurization system. He said he is unsure why his processing space was found not in compliance as it was approved by Interior Health when A&L Peterson started making juice and passed subsequent inspections.
Peterson said he is working on a solution with the inspector to upgrade the space and bring it into compliance; he remains unsure if the upgrades will be cost effective and if the orchard will make juice again.
Peterson said the juice making is a relatively small part of the business, but it has been a good way to use up apples which aren’t suitable for the pies his wife Laura makes and sells.