SOUTH AFRICA – Pioneer Foods, one of the largest food and beverage manufacturer in South Africa (SA) owned by PepsiCo, has announced a recall of several LiquiFruit brands and Ceres apple juice products sold outside the homeland country, following detection of elevated levels of mould toxins in them.

This comes barely a week after Appletiser, a sparkling apple juice brand produced by Coca-Cola South Africa announced a recall of six batches of its product over the same concern.

More than 37,000 cases of Appletiser, both cans and glass bottles, were recalled as a result.

“The health and wellbeing of our consumers is of absolute importance to us, and hence when we identified the potential of a food safety issue, after in-house standard testing and engagement with one of our local suppliers, we immediately launched an internal investigation into all our 100% apple juice products,” said CEO Tertius Carstens.

The company’s investigation has confirmed that a limited quantity of apple juice concentrate supplied to them contained elevated levels of patulin, a mould toxin mainly found in rotting apples.

The recall is based on the presence of patulin in a concentration of more than 50 parts per billion (ppb), which is the regulatory threshold.

“We have not received any complaints from consumers about these products, but decided to accelerate further testing on this product range to be absolutely certain of the extent of the potential impact,” Carstens said.

The World Health Organization highlights the risk of consuming patulin exceeding 50μg/l may lead to vomiting, nausea and gastrointestinal symptoms.

This is in addition to the Ceres brand sold in other jurisdictions i.e. Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Seychelles and Mauritius.

Those who have products on the recall list are urged to return them to the retailer from which they were purchased, to receive a full refund.

Exactly a year ago, Pioneer Foods recalled a single batch of its 300ml cans of LiquiFruit red grape juice following allegations that it contained small shreds of glasses.

Following the launch of reports by some consumers, the company issued a national recall of the product and immediately undertook investigation to ascertain the root cause and extent of the issue.

Pioneer Foods confirmed that what was previously visually identified as “shards of glass” is actually crystals of a naturally occurring substance in products of grapes called potassium bitartrate.

Grapes naturally contain both tartaric acid and potassium. When these two elements bind together under chilly conditions, they form potassium bitartrate crystals that present as glass- like particles.

Given the presence of the crystals the recall is continued and consumers were urged not to consume the product.

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