In response to a final rule on fruit and vegetable juice safety, issued today by the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Allen Matthys, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), made the following comments:

"FDA's long-awaited final rule clearly underscores the importance of pasteurization as a food safety tool to ensure the safety of fruit and vegetable juices. Under this rule, processors are required to achieve a 100,000-fold reduction in the numbers of the most resistant pathogens in their finished products compared to levels that may be present in unprocessed juice.  Clearly, this will require pasteurization or an equivalent treatment.

"NFPA had urged FDA to require that all juices be pasteurized or receive an equivalent treatment to ensure their safety.  It is our belief that such a requirement - which is not included in this rule - would be more effective than simply requiring that manufacturers use Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles for juice processing. 

"We are pleased that FDA did not exempt smaller companies from these regulations, but instead established a longer compliance period for these companies.  Consumers need assurance that all the juices they buy are safe, whether they come from large or small companies.

"Finally, it is important that consumers know that the vast majority of juices sold in the United States - more than 98 percent - have been pasteurized or otherwise heat-treated, and that these juices can be purchased and consumed with confidence.  For example, all shelf-stable juices - those that do not require refrigeration prior to opening - have been heat-processed.  Frozen concentrated juices also are produced from ingredients that have been heat-processed.  And many refrigerated juices also have been pasteurized.  Consumers can check with the retailer or manufacturer if they have questions."

NFPA is the voice of the $460 billion food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs. 

For more information on this issue, contact Timothy Willard, NFPA's Vice President of Communications, at (202) 637-8060, or visit NFPA's Website at www.nfpa-food.org.