Juice Provider Hit with Federal Lawsuit Over Claims it Bought Juice with Unsafe Ranges of Arsenic, Patulin

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Bottles of juice

Valley Processing, a juice supplier, was recently brought into a lawsuit over claims that it sold juice to lunch programs that contained unsafe amounts of arsenic and patulin.

Valley Processing, of Sunnyside, Washington, was recently named in a lawsuit over allegations that it violated “food safety standards and sold juice products that were not fit for human consumption.” The lawsuit was filed on November 6th in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Washington. Unfortunately, the juice products have been sold to businesses and consumers across the country. In fact, “Apple juice originally processed at the Sunnyside facility ended up in the hands of children across the country as part of a project Federal school feeding program – about three million servings per year, ”the lawsuit says.

Alarm graphic; Image courtesy of Clker-Free-Vector-Images via Pixabay, www.pixabay.com

To make matters worse, FDA inspectors reported during the inspections that they saw “dead rodents in the facility, moldy fruit stored outside for months, and juice products with high toxin levels, including inorganic arsenic and patulin”. It goes on to say:

“The defendants have a long history of processing juice in extremely unsanitary conditions. Although the defendants claimed they were interested in making changes, compliance with the law was not a priority.”

According to the lawsuit, the FDA conducted annual routine inspections of the facility between 2016 and 2019. During these inspections, the agency found at least “14 violations of food safety standards in Valley Processing plants”. It says:

“The defendants have repeatedly pledged verbally and in numerous letters to the FDA to bring their facility into compliance with legal requirements. The FDA’s recent inspection revealed that the defendants failed to deliver on any of these promises.”

According to the lawsuit, the company has failed to comply with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point for Juice – HACCP – and current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) regulations. “In addition, during the 2016 routine inspection, the FDA inspectors found high levels of arsenic. One apple juice sample had “an inorganic arsenic level of 88.1 parts per billion – nearly nine times the FDA’s acceptable level of 10 ppb.”

How dangerous is inorganic arsenic? Well, the federal agency said, “Inorganic arsenic is a toxic substance and prolonged exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic has been linked to cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes in humans.” It is currently unknown whether the contaminated apple juice was made available to school children.

In addition to arsenic, FDA inspectors also found elevated levels of patulin, “a mycotoxin produced by certain types of mold that grow on apples, pears and other foods.” Exposure to large amounts of patulin can lead to numerous health risks, including vomiting, nausea, and gastrointestinal disorders.

To make matters worse, the inspectors also observed unsanitary conditions such as bird feathers, animal droppings and “insect fragments on barrels of juice concentrate”, according to the complaint. During the 2016, 2017, and 2018 inspections, FDA inspectors observed “numerous live and dead animals, including mice, rats, squirrels, and birds, in various buildings that were used for both storage and manufacture.”

As part of the lawsuit, the government is demanding a “permanent injunction preventing Valley Processing from reopening and ordering the destruction of any remaining juice.” In addition, the company must reimburse the FDA investigation.

Sources:

Lawsuit: dead rats, high arsenic levels in the Sunnyside juice factory

School feeding program supplier sold high arsenic juice, says US in lawsuit