Mold toxins jumped into consumer consciousness last month when five dog food recalls for aflatoxin lit up discussions regarding food and pet safety.
Two fruit juice issues further that discussion this week as the country looks to deal with mold and fungus, possibly as a result of extreme weather patterns last year.
Yesterday, Pepin Heights recalled honeycrisp apple cider that could contain patulin, a naturally produced toxin that comes from molds like aspergillus, the same mold that produces aflatoxin.
Extreme weather patterns across the plains states caused a flare in aspergillus mold in corn last year, a contributing factor to last month’s dog food recalls.
Chris Sandwick of Pepin Heights said 3,000 gallons were affected by the recall. Pepin Heights bottles in 6,000 gallon batches, using roughly 250,000 apples per batch.
The 58 parts per billion of patulin that the batch tested at is equal, said Sandwick, to one-one-hundredth of one apple used testing positive for patulin. The cutoff for patulin levels is 50 parts per billion.
“We think the safety of our customers is of the utmost importance,” said Sandwick.
But it’s not just apple juice facing the squeeze this week. Orange juice across the nation faces mold issues of its own.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted the import of OJ when it discovered carbendazim in Brazilian juice. Carbendazim is a fungicide used to treat many crops in many countries, but it isn’t approved in the U.S. for use on oranges.
A spokesperson from the Environmental Protection Agency said there are no known side effects of carbendazim and that the concern over its presence is related to the fact that the fungicide isn’t authorized for use in oranges in the U.S.
But the FDA’s tests highlight a disconnect and a concern that carbendazim might be dangerous for consumers.
Siobhan DeLancey, team lead for food veterinary and cosmetic products at the FDA, said that for orange juice products already on the shelf, tests are safety-focused, not regulation-focused.
The FDA’s benchmark for carbendazim is set at 80 parts per billion within the country; imports will be rejected or destroyed for anything over 10 parts per billion. Coca-Cola reported the problem to the FDA originally when tests of their and competitors’ orange juice products came back around 35 parts per billion.
Presently, all of the three preliminary tests by the FDA on imports came back negative for carbendazim. There are about a dozen still in progress. DeLancey said the FDA is holding and testing with an indefinite time frame until all the tests come back.
Brazil produces about 41 percent of the orange juice consumed in the U.S., which is well over 1 million gallons a year.
There is talk that high instances of black spot mold in Brazil oranges were to blame this season for the prevalent fungicide levels. Dan Schafer, spokesperson for Coca-Cola, said he couldn’t confirm that, but said carbendazim is used to treat black spot mold.
Mold isn’t a focus or concern, necessarily, but agencies throughout the country and even internationally are now seeing how weather patterns affect their crops and later down the supply chain, how they impact consumers.