SA’s apple juice recall appears to be widespread – and is likely linked to a single supplier

SA’s apple juice recall appears to be widespread – and is likely linked to a single supplier

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.
  • And it’s likely these recalls can all be traced to a single source in the Western Cape, as initial feedback shows that Pioneer Foods and Coca-Cola share a common supplier.
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Initial investigations into the recall of certain apple juice products in South Africa point to a single supplier in the Western Cape. Authorities in the province have been requested to identify the root cause and provide feedback on the extent of the health concerns.

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 (NCCC).

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’s been vocal in issuing alerts related to the apple juice recalls in recent weeks and continues its investigation into the root cause of the patulin problem.

“The investigation also seeks to determine if there is a link [between all the recent recalls],” NCC media liaison officer, Phetho Ntaba told Business Insider South Africa.

“It [the patulin problem] appears to be widespread, we hope our investigation is going to reveal these details.”

And while the NCC is tasked with monitoring the recall process instituted by suppliers, the national department of health’s Food Control division is in close contact with authorities in the Western Cape who are overseeing the investigation under provisions of the National Health Act, 2003 (Act No. 62 of 2003).

“We are aware of the recalls owing to a requirement added to our updated Regulations Governing General Hygiene Requirements for Food Premises, Transport of Food and Related Matters, [R638/2018],” Foster Mohale, spokesperson for the national department of health, told Business Insider SA.

“Regulation 10 (18) requires, amongst others, notification of a recall to the Municipal Environmental Health Practitioner as well as the Directorate [of] Food Control.”

Although the NCC has yet to confirm a solid link between the recalls issued by Coca-Cola, Pioneer Foods, and Woolworths, the department of health says that initial investigations confirm a common thread.

“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 name of this “common supplier” has not yet been made public by the NCC or department of health, pending the outcome of ongoing investigations.

“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.”

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