A couple years ago, Columbia Gorge Organic, one of the pioneers of the super-premium juice category, began to use high pressure processing (HPP) for a handful of its products. While the vast majority of the company’s juices are pasteurized, Columbia Gorge found that HPP allowed for its Green Apple Greens, Lemon Ginger Apple Greens and Kale Apple Lemon blends to retain flavor better than thermal-based processing.
Recently, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took issue with Columbia Gorge’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for its HPP juices. In a warning letter dated March 25, 2015, the FDA wrote that the company has failed to include in its plan “control measures that will consistently produce, at a minimum, a 5-log reduction of pertinent microorganisms, for a period as long as the shelf life of the product when stored under normal and moderate abuse conditions.”
A 5-log reduction refers to FDA’s requirement of a 100,000-fold reduction in the number of microorganisms for packaged juice.
The FDA also noted that HPP alone is not effective to control C. botulinum spores, the pertinent microorganism in low acid juices (those with a pH above 4.6), such as Columbia Gorge products made with purees of kale, celery, spinach, cucumber, parsley and chard. The agency stated that “controls for C. botulinum in these low acid juice ingredients used in any juice blend or beverage is pH,” and acknowledged that while Columbia Gorge monitors the pH level in its low acid products, the company requires “a critical control point for pH.”
It’s not the first time that a super-premium juice company has been targeted by the FDA for insufficient production control measures. Last year, Garden of Flavor and GoodLife Juices received warning letters from the agency calling on both companies to revise their HACCP plans.
Columbia Gorge has 15 business days from receipt of the letter to reply to the FDA and outline specific corrective actions.
The company declined comment for this story.