A bottled fruit juice from Australia has been recalled in three countries due to high levels of patulin.
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) in Hong Kong announced last week that a sample of the drink imported from Australia was contaminated with the mycotoxin. Patulin can be found in damaged or moldy fruits. If contaminated apples are used to make juices, high levels are likely to be carried through to the final product. Pasteurization will generally destroy mold but cannot remove patulin which is already present.
Juicy Isle Pty Ltd recalled Pure Tassie – organic apple and blackcurrant juice 1.5 liter in Australia this week.
Testing in Hong Kong
The CFS collected the sample at a supermarket in Hung Hom for testing as part of a routine food surveillance program. It was imported and distributed by PARKnSHOP (HK) Limited with a best before date of Oct. 6, 2020.
Results showed the sample contained patulin at 260 parts per billion (ppb), exceeding the action level of 50 ppb adopted by the CFS. This level is the same as the Codex Alimentarius Commission standard on patulin in apples or apple juice.
The CFS has informed the company of the irregularity and the firm has stopped sale and removed from shelves all batches of the affected product and initiated a recall.
“Patulin mostly occurs in rotten apple and its products. Generally speaking, apple juice with a low level of patulin will not cause acute intoxication. For humans, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances and vomiting have been reported,” said a CFS spokesman.
CFS warned prosecution will be instituted should there be sufficient evidence. An offender is subject to a maximum fine of HKD $50,000 (USD$6,500) and imprisonment for six months upon conviction.
Singapore and Australia recalls
The level of patulin detected by CFS also exceeds the maximum limit in fruit juice in the Singapore Food Regulations. This may cause the product to be unsafe for consumption and people who have purchased the item should not consume it, according to the Singapore Food Agency.
The agency told the importer, Cold Storage Singapore (1983) Pte Ltd, to recall the product and this action is ongoing.
In Australia, the drink was sold at Coles, IGA and Original Organic Juice in New South Wales; in IGA and Coles in Queensland and Victoria and only IGA in Western Australia.
In Tasmania, it could be bought at Hills Street Grocer, IGA Strahan, Port Cygnet Grocer, Macquarie Supermarket, IGA Dover and Oyster Cove Fruit and Vegetable Store. Coles, Drake’s, Foodland and On the Run stores stocked the item in South Australia.
Company response plus other juice with patulin
Juicy Isle, a company based in Tasmania, has been producing juices for nearly 50 years.
“Testing has revealed an elevated level of patulin which is often found in apple juice and related products. Consuming the product may cause nausea and potential vomiting. Consumers should avoid drinking the juice and are advised to return the product for a refund of the purchase price,” said a statement on the company’s Facebook page.
“We regret that we have let our customers down on this occasion and apologize for the inconvenience and any impact on you. We look forward to having fresh batches in the market as soon as possible.”
Earlier this month, the CFS in Hong Kong found a different bottled fruit juice drink imported from New Zealand was contaminated with patulin at a level exceeding the limit.
The agency collected the sample at a supermarket in North Point for testing. Results showed the sample contained patulin at 150 ppb – above the 50 ppb action level.
The 1 liter bottle of 100% Raw Apple Juice with Manuka honey, lemon and ginger was manufactured by Homegrown Juice Company and imported by Dairy Farm Company Limited. It has a best before date of June 21, 2020.
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