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Food safety considerations when using apple "drops" due to recent weather events

 Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, Food Safety

The recent weather and derechos in Iowa, Minnesota and other areas of the North Central region have left many apple growers with questions about using their fruits that have fallen to the ground. While it might be tempting to want to use the apples so that they do not go to waste, these dropped apples should not be used for fresh eating, baking or in juice or cider production due to the potential for the presence of patulin.

Patulin is a mycotoxin produced by molds like Penicillium, Aspergillus and Byssochlamys when apples or other fruits are injured. The toxin is heat-stable, meaning it is resistant to heating, even at pasteurization temperatures. You cannot see or smell or taste the toxin, so it is not possible to know if it is present without laboratory testing. Patulin has been shown to cause serious illness in animals and humans, especially to the nervous systems and might cause problems with blood flow, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms.

In addition to not using drops, use proper handling practices and gentle harvesting and handling to reduce stem injuries and the potential for patulin development. Proper holding temperatures have also been shown to reduce the development of the patulin toxin during storage. Significant research continues to be conducted around the world on how to control for this toxin and what storage temperatures, handling practices and other variables affect its growth.

Patulin remains a key pathogen of concern for the apple juice and cider industry, and a significant health concern. Not using drops and following best practices for handling and storage temperatures can help reduce the potential for this toxin to spread via your apples.

To read more about patulin:

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