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Arsenic-Contaminated Juice for College Lunch Program Sparks Lawsuit by the FDA

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Arsenic-Contaminated Juice for College Lunch Program Sparks Lawsuit by the FDA

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An apple juice supplier in Washington state responsible for providing 3 million servings to a federal school lunch program each year is facing a lawsuit regarding arsenic and toxins in its products.

Valley Processing Incorporated is a fruit processing facility located in Sunnyside, Washington. For years, this company has supplied apple juice to a lunch program run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture intended to help low-income college students remain healthy and successful as they pursue higher education. When it became evident that Valley Processing was continuing to produce apple juice containing unsafe levels of inorganic arsenic and using expired concentrate and rotten fruit in their product despite multiple warnings from the FDA, the government finally filed a lawsuit to enforce safe food regulations.

This is not the first time Valley Processing has been under scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This is not the first time this facility has come head-to-head with the FDA for processing food products in unsanitary conditions. In 2016, the company received an official warning from the FDA to comply with food safety regulations. In 2018 and 2019, the company issued recalls of apple juices produced between 2017 and 2018.

According to the 2016 warning letter, Valley Processing’s juice contained inorganic arsenic at levels that were clearly not safe to be consumed. Continued exposure to inorganic arsenic can result in a myriad of health conditions and injuries, including cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and diabetes.

The lawsuit alleges that Valley Processing failed to take corrective action, despite past citations.

According to the official lawsuit, despite the numerous citations received by the processing facility, management failed to make any significant changes to correct the violations. The new corrective actions proposed by the lawsuit include suspending operations, destroying remaining contaminated inventory, and adopting a sanctuary control program designed by a third-party expert before the company can be allowed to reopen. The president of the company, Mary Ann Bliesner, has agreed to these terms, but they must first be approved by a judge before they can go into effect. Bliesner informed The New York Times that the company had already ceased operations and was in the process of liquidating its assets.

Valley Processing has already sold assets to another fruit processing company, Milne Fruit Productions Inc.

Milne Fruit Productions announced their acquisition of Valley Processing’s production and cold storage facilities along with their intention to increase capacity and grow with customer demand. The sale was expected to finalize as of September 10th and could solve a good deal of the problems both the FDA and the company in itself have been wrestling with.

If you or a loved one have suffered from a contaminated food product, it is important to report the contamination as soon as possible to begin an investigation. As was the case with Valley Processing, the contamination could be wider spread than it immediately appears, and action may need to be taken to prevent further injuries. For help reporting food contamination, reach out to a product liability attorney.

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