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Warning Over Low-Acid Juice Making Practices

Healthy Choice Islands Blends Inc. is a company that owes its founding to the dry bread, thin soup and water diet of the Shumen POW camp in Bulgaria.

It was after doing time there during World War II that an U.S. Army Air Force radioman named Robert Goldberg returned home and developed fresh-squeezed juice drinks to help regain his strength.  In 1947, he turned those recipes into Islands Blends, a Los Angeles-based juice manufacturer.

Goldberg’s son Tom inherited the business, which today turns out 50 juices, providing fresh squeezed juices to Southern California restaurants and retailers.

Last Sept.13-28, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected the Los Angeles manufacturer, finding problems with conditions inside the plant and “serious deviations” from food safety regulations.

“Accordingly, your juice products, including your apple, carrot, orange, pomegranate, and watermelon juice and any other vegetable or fruit juices, whether sold as 100 percent juice, or used as ingredients in the manufacturing of juice beverages containing less than 100 percent juice, are adulterated in that they have been prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they have been rendered injurious to health, said FDA in a Jan.13 warning letter.

In the letter to Islands Blends president Steven A. Mullen, FDA said the company must have a Hazard Analyses plan for each specific type of juice it makes, and cannot take a generic approach like one plan covering all “small batch” juices.

In response to the FDA-483 inspection report, Islands Blends gave FDA new Hazard Analyses and HAACP plans for various low-acid juices, but the agency said they do not include adequate control for C. botulinum.   

‘You must include in your hazard analysis and HACCP plan control measures that will consistently produce, at a minimum a 5 log reduction of the pertinent microorganisms for at least as long a as the shelf life of the product when stored under normal and modern abuse conditions, to comply with 21 CFR Part 120.24(a),” FDA wrote.

Islands Blends’ open-kettle cooking is not adequate to reduce C. botulinum that could be present in the juice, FDA said. Because of several instances of deadly botulism poisoning caused by refrigerated carrot juice, FDA recommends using a thermal process to control growth of the pathogen.

In addition to demanding the company do a better job of record keeping, FDA found sanitary conditions inside the facility were lacking, and said these conditions created a potential for cross contamination. Some of what FDA found included:

  • Dried seeds, pulp, and build up of orange-colored material on surfaces of the orange juicing machine.

  • Hose used to dilute juice concentrate to single strength juice lying on the floor with dispensing end touching the floor. 

  • No hot water at the hand washing sinks in the bathroom. 

  • No paper towels at the hand washing sink in the manufacturing area.

  • Use of a knife to cut watermelon for juice processing that had the blade painted and had various areas where the paint was scratched/scraped off.

  • The processing room had cracked and broken wall and floor tiles.

  • Drain pipe from the utensil-ware washing sink submerged in clogged floor drain.

  • Use of bleach and water mixture as a sanitizer for food processing equipment without monitoring the concentration of the solution.

  • Fruit flies were around the orange juicing machine.


FDA said the company should provide records that show responsible employees have been trained in sanitation. The agency asked the juice company to respond with documentation within 15 working days.

© Food Safety News