Everything you need to know about the recalled Woolworths apple juices

Everything you need to know about the recalled Woolworths apple juices

Consumerwatch’s Wendy Knowler shared the juicy details of the Woolworths rotten juice. 

Woolworths recall juice

Who’s the rotten apple in this story?

A batch of apple concentrate with high levels of a fungal toxin found in rotting apples made its way into several brands of apple juice, which have all been recalled. This week the National Consumer Commission named the supplier of that apple concentrate. So how significant is that health risk?

Consumerwatch’s Wendy Knowler shared the juicy details in this week’s Consumerwatch.

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First came the Appletiser recall at the end of September, then a week later, Liquifruit and Ceres’ apple juice products (export only in Ceres’ case) were recalled,  followed by Woolworths apple juice products - the little 200ml packs.

Clearly they had to have all used the same apple concentrate. We just didn’t know which one.

That is until yesterday, when the National Consumer Commission announced that it has launched an investigation “into the conduct” of Elgin Fruit Juice  - the supplier of 100% Apple Juice Concentrate, in relation to the recent recalls.

Acting National Consumer Commissioner Thezi Mabuza said based on information provided to the NCC, the NCC “has reasonable grounds” to believe that Elgin Fruit Juice supplied goods that are unsafe or pose a potential risk to the public.

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“The Consumer Protection Act emphasises that every consumer has a right to receive goods that are safe and of good quality.

“If the investigation reveals that Elgin Fruit Juice 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 R1m, whichever is the greater” she said.

The brands in questions were found to contain elevated levels of patulin, a mould toxin mainly found in rotting apples; in this case “elevated” means more than 50 parts per billion, which is the regulatory threshold.

Food safety expert Dr Lucia Anelich said patulin is produced by the fungus on apples. “Fruit juices are pasteurised to kill off any microorganisms that could cause food poisoning and that could cause spoilage of the product, such as yeasts.

“But the heating temperatures used for pasteurisation do not destroy the patulin,” she said. “Using higher temperatures is impractical as the higher temperatures would affect certain desirable quality attributes of the product, making the juice undesirable for the consumer.”

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How worried should we be?

As for any possible danger to human health, Dr Anelich says on her website, Anelich Consulting, that very few reports indicate any direct carcinogenic (cancer-causing) ability of patulin in humans.

‘In vivo animal studies show interaction of patulin with the gastrointestinal tract, causing an inflammatory reaction.  Similar disturbances have been reported in humans, including nausea and vomiting. It can also be mutagenic i.e. causing DNA damage in animals as well as being teratogenic (affecting unborn animal foetus). However, it is important to note that these effects have occurred in animal models and also when very high levels of patulin have been administered to those experimental animals, via direct injection into the peritoneum as opposed through diet.  Such very high levels are unlikely to be found in commercially manufactured juices. Furthermore, the effect of dilution when ingesting other foods must be considered.”

She speaks about this further with Darren, Keri, and Sky:

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Beware the maths-challenged special offer

We consumers are conditioned to think we’ll get a better deal if we buy the large pack or the “buy-two” offer - especially if accompanied by an attention-grabbing large price sign - but that’s not always the case.

Social media is full of images of “not so special” supermarket offers.

Last week someone posted several Shoprite “shelfies” on Twitter including a large display sign for Sasko sliced white bread - R9.99 each or two for R25, and Cadbury 80g slabs of chocolate - R11,99 each or two for R26.

I forwarded them to the Shoprite Group, commenting that it’s safe to assume that consumers wouldn’t choose to buy more than one of the same item if that came with a price penalty.

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“So what it going on here?” I asked. "And why does this happen so often?"

Responding, Shoprite agreed that a “buy-two” offer “must always be a good deal for the consumer”.

 “We invite our customers to immediately engage with us if that is not the case, so that urgent action can be taken to rectify any possible oversight, the retailer said.

 “The incorrect pricing on the products in question was the direct result of human error. Errors of this kind creep in from time to time when changes are applied manually at store level to accommodate promotional deals, either nationally or divisionally, at short notice.

 “We apologise sincerely and ensure our customers that we continuously work to improve our systems and processes and on enforcing disciplines across the merchandising system and in store.”

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If you see one of these misleading price signs in a supermarket, take a snap and share it with me via email  - [email protected]  or on Twitter - @wendyknowler - with the hashtag “shelfie”.

Contact Wendy

Get in touch with Wendy via her website or her Facebook page. Please note that Wendy is not able to personally respond to every email she receives. If she is able to take up your case, she will contact you directly. Here are other avenues for you to consider.

Listen to more podcasts from Wendy Knowler in the Consumerwatch channel below: 

Main Image Courtesy: Supplied

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