FDA warns local processor it found high levels of arsenic in its apple juice concentrate

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WASHINGTON — 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,” the FDA said.

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,” the FDA said in its letter.

The Yakima Herald said Luke LaBorde, a food safety specialist at Penn State University who has trained apple producers and processers, told the newspaper that the arsenic likely came from apples picked at an older orchard, where stronger pesticides were once used.

The FDA said the company’s initial response was inadequate and gave the firm a 15-day period to respond to the warning letter.