Apple juice recall South Africa
Apple juice products affected by the recall
  • Apple juice products produced in South Africa are being recalled due to elevated levels of patulin, a mould which, when consumed, can cause nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, and vomiting.
  • Coca-Cola South Africa was the first to issue a recall of more than 37,000 cases of its Appletiser products in September.
  • LiquiFruit and Ceres, both subsidiaries of Pioneer foods, have recently issued similar recalls, with Woolworths’ own brand of apple juice also affected.
  • The National Consumer Commission confirmed on Wednesday that Elgin Fruit Juice (PTY) LTD in the Western Cape was being investigated as the source of the patulin problem.
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Elgin Fruit Juice (PTY) LTD is being investigated as the source of the recent apple juice recalls. The company, based in Grabouw in the Western Cape, has been identified the supplier of 100% apple juice concentrate to affected fruit juice producers. 

Coca-Cola South Africa was the first manufacturer to raise the alarm in September, issuing a recall for more than 37,000 cases of Appletiser products. A similar recall was implemented in Australia.

Just weeks later, LiquiFruit and Ceres – both subsidiaries of Pioneer foods – also announced the recall of certain apple juices. Woolworths is the latest company to recall its 200ml branded apple juice cartons.

These recalls all stem from the detection of elevated levels of patulin. The fruit-based mould is a mytoxin which, when consumed, can cause nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, and vomiting, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The recalls effect batches of products which contain patulin levels exceeding 50 parts per billion, or 50 micrograms per kg, according to the National Consumer Commission (NCC).

Neighbouring countries like Botswana and Namibia have also started recalling products imported from South Africa. Ceres products have been exported to 25 countries.

"A limited quantity of apple juice concentrate supplied to us, contained elevated levels of patulin. Patulin is a naturally occurring mycotoxin commonly associated with apples," Pioneer Foods said in its recall statement.

Consumers and retailers have been urged to check their products – by identifying the best before dates associated with recalled batches – and contact suppliers to return the goods for a refund.

The NCC is tasked with investigating the nature, causes, extent, and degree of the risk to the public associated with potentially harmful products. It confirmed the investigation into Elgin Fruit Juice (PTY) LTD on Wednesday morning.

“The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) emphasises that every consumer has a right to receive goods that are safe and of good quality,” acting NCC commissioner Thezi Mabuza said in a statement.

“If the investigation reveals that Elgin Fruit Juice (PTY) LTD contravened the provisions of the CPA, the Commission will refer the matter to the National Consumer Tribunal where we will be praying for an administrative fine of 10% of their total annual turnover or R1,000,000 whichever is the greater.”

The department of health’s spokesperson, who spoke to Business Insider South Africa prior to the announcement by the NCC, confirmed the likelihood of a singular source responsible for the recall.

“Although the department has not received feedback as yet of the root cause of the initial recall by Appletiser, it is postulated that this is the case as Pioneer foods [Ceres and Liquifruit] has indicated that they have a common supplier with Coca-Cola [bottler of Appeltiser],” said Mohale.

“The provinces are responsible for co-ordination, monitoring, and oversight. For this reason, in the Food Safety Alert Notification, generated because of a recall or any other food safety emergency, the Western Cape Province was requested to investigate and provide feedback in relation to the health [risks of] the incident, including the root cause.”

Note: This article was first published before the name of the fruit juice supplier had been released to the public. It has been updated to reflect the announcement by the NCC, which notes an investigation into Elgin Fruit Juice (PTY) LTD.

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