FDA finds toxic levels of arsenic for products at Yakima Valley apple juice plant

An apple juice plant in Yakima Valley was found in serious violations during a recent inspection by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the federal agency confirmed.

An examination of samples of apple juice collected from Valley Processing Inc. revealed inorganic arsenic more than eight times higher than the maximum limit set by the FDA.

According to the newly published report, one sample collected from the plant was found containing inorganic arsenic 88.1 parts per billion (ppb). The federal agency recommends no more than 10 ppb.

Revealing the results of the sample tests, the FDA said, “Inorganic arsenic is a toxic substance and prolonged exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is associated with cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes in humans.”

Penn State University’s food-safety specialist Prof. Luke LaBorde said the high arsenic levels probably came from apples picked from an older orchard. It may be noted here that some experts associate inorganic arsenic with the historical use of pesticides several years ago.

When contacted, 108 E. Blaine Ave.-based Valley Processing’s President Mary Ann Bliesner argued that the facility follows all rules and regulations, and it is working fine.

According to a story published on the topic by Oregon Live, “The federal Food and Drug Administration says arsenic has been found at nearly nine times the allowed limit in samples of apple juice from a Yakima Valley processor. In its warning letter to Valley Processing, has also faulted the Sunnyside juice processor for storing apples outdoors for months at a time. The FDA says leaving apples outside in open bins encourages mold to grow.”

The agency says prolonged exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is associated with cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes. Professor Luke LaBorde, a food- safety specialist at Penn State University who has trained apple producers and processors, said the arsenic likely came from apples picked at an older orchard. Inorganic arsenic is usually associated with the historical use of pesticides many years ago.

“The FDA sent a warning letter to the Washington-based fruit-juice Valley Processing company after the agency found high levels of inorganic arsenic in samples of apple juice concentrate. The letter, dated June 2, said the warning was based on inspections made from Dec. 7, 2015, through Jan. 29, 2016. “The inspection revealed serious violations of the juice Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation,” according to a recent Q13Fox News report.

During the inspection, FDA collected samples of apple juice concentrate and found inorganic levels of arsenic at 88 parts per billion. The FDA says its action level for inorganic arsenic in single-strength apple juice is 10 parts per billion. The agency noted that it had received an initial response from the company, based in Sunnyside, Wash., that stated the product with the high levels of arsenic would be held at the facility and disposed of. “Inorganic arsenic is a toxic substance and prolonged exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is associated with cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes in humans.”

A report published in Seattle Times informed, “A Sunnyside, Yakima County, the fruit-juice processor has been warned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the agency found high levels of inorganic arsenic in samples of apple juice concentrate. In its warning letter to Valley Processing, the FDA also criticized the company for allegedly storing apples outside for months in open bins, which could allow mold to grow. A sample of apple juice concentrate tested by the FDA had arsenic levels nearly nine times the agency’s limit of 10 parts per billion.”

“Inorganic arsenic is a toxic substance and prolonged exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic is associated with cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes in humans,” the agency wrote to the company. Children are more susceptible to arsenic’s effects, said professor Luke LaBorde, a food-safety specialist at Penn State University who has trained apple producers and processors.

“Inorganic (arsenic) is usually associated with the historical use of pesticides many years ago,” LaBorde said. “Inorganic (arsenic) will not generally degrade with time. It just sort of stays there. If someone is using an old orchard, it’s possible it could stay in the soil.” The arsenic issue could be coming from a specific orchard sourced by Valley Processing. “It’s the responsibility of the packer to be responsible for the juice and make sure they know where they’re getting raw materials and know that they’re properly safe,” he said. “What they should do is test the incoming apples from various suppliers and try to nail down who is giving them higher arsenic levels.”

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