New bacteria identification helps prevent apple juice from spoiling

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NEW YORK (WWTI) — A recent study identified three new bacteria species that can contribute to producers’ successful production of apple juice.

The three new species all belong to the genus Alicyclobacillus and included Alicyclobacillus mali, A. fructus, and A. suci. Specifically, A. suci was found to produce guaiacol which is known to create a medicinal, rubber-like flavor in shelf apple juice.

According to an article in the Cornell Chronicle, apple juice is acidic and is often heated during pasteurization which contributes to the product’s ability to restrict most bacteria. Unfortunately, Alicyclobacillus bacteria have spores that are capable of surviving extreme heat and high acidity.

The bacterias come from orchards and soils that contaminate the apples that are used to produce juice. Once the juice has been processed and bottled for such products as apple juice, concentrates, teas, sports beverages, and coconut water, spores can germinate, grow, and produce guaiacol, which can cause spoilage. The effects are not visible which allows the drinks to look fine even if they have spoiled.

According to the article, the new findings will allow manufacturers to identify whether their juices contain A. suci, which leads to spoilage. It will also help producers adjust their Alicyclobacillus control strategies and support the development of tools and diagnostic technologies for the industry.

Assistant professor of microbial food safety in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Abigail Snyder said the discovery can make a big impact on apple juice products.

“Better understanding the structure of the Alicyclobacillus genus and the spoilage potential of individual species drives improvement in quality management decisions that reduce waste and improve customer satisfaction,” Snyder said. “It’s a significant quality defect that you can’t see ahead of time, and you can’t control through conventional inhibition or inactivation strategies used to manage other food quality issues.”

The researchers used genomic, biochemical, and phenotypic analyses to identify the three new Alicyclobacillus species. The study benefitted from decades of extension work analyzing samples including some from the beverage industry in New York which is the country’s second-largest apple-producing state. While Alicyclobacillus bacteria can affect juice quality and lead to spoilage the article stated that they are not a food safety concern.

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