Hood River Juice Company, owner of Ryan’s brand apple juices and ciders, says a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last month was “completely unexpected” and that it has taken action to correct past violations.
The April 25 warning letter, addressed to Hood River president David B. Ryan, stems from an inspection of the company’s Oregon facility conducted between November 27 and December 6, 2017. According to the FDA, “the inspection revealed serious violations of the juice Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulation” which opened the risk of patulin, a carcinogen found in rotting apples, appearing in the company’s apple juice and cider products.
The letter noted that Hood River was storing apples outside for extended periods of time, which can increase the risk of patulin. As well, inspectors found a number of sanitary violations including peeling paint in the facility and a failure to fully clean apple mesh.
Laurie Brown, quality assurance manager at Hood River, told BevNET the company received a warning letter shortly after the inspection and sent a response on December 18, outlining its plans to correct the violations. Brown said the company was caught “off guard” by the April letter, which she said came across as if the company had not responded to the initial warning. While the new FDA warning acknowledged Hood River’s original response, it stated the company failed to submit a revised HACCP plan and proper evidence that corrections have been made.
In a May 7 response to the FDA, Ryan said the company was “not aware that an additional written response was required” and that they were “under the assumption that the corrective actions would be verified by an inspector on-site during a follow-up visit.”
Ryan also listed changes which include a revised plan for fruit sorting to avoid rotten or moldy apples, fixes to leaking pipes, and scrubbing of surfaces with peeling paint.
“Hood River Juice Company, Inc. takes food safety very seriously, this guiding principle was the driving force behind attaining our global food safety certification,” Ryan wrote in the response. “We consider this FDA warning letter a chance to improve upon our process and food safety program. Continuous improvement is incorporated into our Food Safety Policy.”
The company also released a statement to customers as well copies of both FDA responses.
“These letters will demonstrate our commitment to working cooperatively with the FDA and our quick response implementing the necessary improvements or changes required to remain compliant,” Ryan said in the statement.