The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is advising consumers to avoid drinking Pepin Heights Orchard brand apple cider after the department’s routine surveillance sampling  revealed the product may be contaminated with a type of mold toxin called patulin.

MDA lab tests confirmed that the apple cider contained patulin at levels higher than the limit established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  No illnesses have been associated with this patulin contamination.

Consumers and retailers with the cider on hand are asked to discard it.

The cider was sold in half gallon and one gallon plastic jugs.and distributed in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Arizona, Texas, and Florida..  The affected lot codes have “use by” dates of Jan. 27, 30 and 31 and Feb. 1, 5, and 6, 2011.

According to an MDH news release, Pepin Heights Orchard, of Lake City, MN, is cooperating fully to determine the source of the patulin, which is a mycotoxin (mold toxin) that may be found in fruits, vegetables and other foods.  Patulin is formed by certain kinds of fungus that sometimes grow on or in these products. While the short-term health effects of patulin are not clearly established, FDA has identified long-term exposure to the substance as a potential concern.

Questions can be directed to the Pepin Heights Response Center at 800-652-3779, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST).