A sweet cup of juice can be a refreshing treat, but not when it’s contaminated with dangerous chemicals. There’s slightly less danger today after the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington joined the FDA to shut down Valley Processing, Inc.
The company in Sunnyside, Washington, and its owner, Mary Ann Bliesner, received an injunction against the sale of juice products with dangerous levels of inorganic arsenic and patulin toxins. FDA investigators identified “grossly unsanitary conditions” at the company’s facility where grape juice concentrate contaminated with dirt and mold was improperly stored in external storage tanks and outside barrels.
According to the CDC, “large doses of inorganic arsenic can cause symptoms ranging from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea to dehydration and shock.” Prolonged exposure can lead to conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer
The company had previously been cited by the FDA and had agreed to dispose of the contaminated juice, but to mix it with newer batches. The tainted products were distributed to consumers, including through school feeding programs. Now the company must destroy all of the remaining inventory and fix the issues listed in the injunction and undergo FDA inspections before it can resume operations. In November, when the FDA’s lawsuit was filed, Washington news agency The Wenatchee World reported that Bliesner was planning to close the company and exit the industry instead of fixing the issues.
Judy McMeekin, Pharm D, FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs, said, “Food processors who fail to comply with FDA regulations can endanger the health and wellbeing of consumers. With this declaration of consent, we are taking steps to protect Americans, in this case children too, from consuming food that has been processed in violation of the law. “