JoNel Aleccia of msnbc reports that products recalled earlier this year by a Washington state fruit processor were blamed for illnesses of nine North Carolina children who became sick after eating applesauce at school.
This illnesses are only now being made public because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wrote a letter to the company, Snokist Growers of Yakima, Wash., saying the company cannot ensure the safety of moldy applesauce and fruit puree that has been reconditioned for human consumption.
“Your firm reprocesses moldy applesauce product … using a method that is not effective against all toxic metabolites,” read the FDA letter sent Oct. 20 to Jimmie L. Davis, Snokist’s president. “Several foodborne molds may be hazardous to human health.”
The latest warning came after FDA officials said Snokist failed to adequately address problems identified during a June inspection in which regulators found large, laminated bags of fruit products that were supposed to be sealed and sterile, but instead were broken open and tainted with white, brown, blue, blue-green and black mold.
Some of the compromised bags were bloated and one had “a strong fermented odor,” the report said.
The FDA’s letter identified at least eight instances last year in which Snokist had reprocessed the moldy applesauce into canned goods for human consumption. The inspection report said Snokist documents showed the company had reprocessed mold-contaminated applesauce at least 13 times between January 2008 and May 2011, repackaging food into 15-ounce cans, 106-ounce-cans, 300-gallon bags and 4.2-ounce, single-serve cups.
It’s not clear whether the mold-tainted applesauce went to schools. However, the June inspection followed a voluntary recall of more than 3,300 cases of canned Snokist applesauce in May after North Carolina schoolchildren became mildly ill after eating the fruit product. The recall was blamed on faulty seals on cans. The children have since recovered.
Snokist officials admit that they “rework” some moldy food for future use. But in an e-mail to msnbc.com, company officials said that the contaminated fruit represents only a fraction of the company’s products, that compromised product is typically separated and destroyed, and that any reprocessed food is heat-treated to kill toxins.
“If rework occurs, our thermal process is more than adequate to render the product commercially sterile,” Tina Moss, a company spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail.
However, the FDA said the company’s tests are not adequate and that officials must prove they’re testing for other dangerous microbes: “Most mycotoxins are stable compounds that are not destroyed by heat treatment,” the letter said.
Snokist applesauce is also sold at retailers. I wonder who the third-party auditor was?