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FDA Says Applesauce Maker Reworking Moldy Fruit to Use as School Kids Sick After Lunches

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If it was actually 'snow kissed' it probably wouldn't be so affected by mold. Instead it seems to be rotting food. Washington state fruit processor "Snokist" has been supplying schools and kids nationwide with apple sauce--in addition to making baby foods--and the FDA says its reconditioning process needs to be proven as healthy. The company's been turning moldy foods into 'new' ones for people to eat. There's only a few, multi-colored molds that could be dangerous to health.

What are your kids really eating at school? It might make you kind of sick to find out. It's accused of making at least nine school kids sick anyway.

It seems weird anyone would consider "reconditioning" a food product to make it edible, but that's what's been happening. The FDA has posted formal warning to Snokist Growers in Yakima (WA), that the maker of applesauce for school kids and fruit products for even babies can't ensure the safety of moldy applesauce or pureed fruit that it's been reconditioning for human consumption. Apparently issues have been going on since 2008.

Says the FDA about its most recent issue with Snokist: “Your [Snokist] firm reprocesses moldy applesauce product … using a method that is not effective against all toxic metabolites... Several foodborne molds may be hazardous to human health.”

Snokist food products already recalled earlier in 2011 are blamed for nine North Carolina children getting sick. All nine becoming ill after eating applesauce provided at school, though the manufacturer won't confirm a link between it's treatment of rotting foods and meals given to kids across the nation. Despite the fact the year is almost to a close, the most recent problems have been going on since mid-year in June, and Snokist is accused of failing to address health-related issues or problems discovered during a summertime FDA inspection.

Allegedly, huge and laminated bags of fruit products that were supposed to be sterile were either exposed to air or contained contaminants by being open. Whatever the case, the FDA alleges multi-colored molds that span the rainbow were present -- including white, brown, blue, blue-green and even black mold. Black mold is typically known to rank among the most dangerous of air contaminants. The identified molds found in the Snokist food products include types of Pennicillium, Alternaria and Fusarium. And all those molds can make people ill.

Allegations or a related report against the school food supplier say some of the products were bloated or fermenting. Some of the compromised bags were bloated and one had “a strong fermented odor,” the report said.

The problems aren't new as of June either. Somehow the company seems to have been getting away with things for years. More recently, the FDA cites eight separate occurrences in 2010 where Snokist allegedly reprocessed bad or rotting food products -- reprocessing already moldy applesauce into cans for people or kids to eat. Apparently things really take awhile: An inspection report claims the school food and baby food supplier reprocessed applesauce tainted by mold on over a dozen occasions between the start of 2008 and before mid-year in 2011.

Over roughly two and one-half years the FDA says Snokist repackaged mold-contaminated food products into multiple forms including 15-ounce cans, 106-ounce-cans, individual 4.2-ounce cups and 300-gallon bags.

Supposedly it's not known, or the FDA doesn't want to say, whether that moldy and reconditioned applesauce went to schools. But if it didn't, events that followed are awfully strange. Snokist had recalled at least 3,300 cases of canned applesauce in May after school kids in North Carolina became ill. Supposedly that voluntary recall was cased on faulty can seals.

It all sounds gross and extremely unhealthy, but Snokist admits to a “rework” of some moldy food products so that the company can use that once-contaminated food in the future. But don't be alarmed: supposedly that "rework" of moldy stuff is only a small portion of the company's food products. The company claims it destroys (who knows how badly) compromised product. Apparently consumers are supposed to be at ease with the fact that the foods Snokist reprocesses is heat-treated in order to kill toxins. The food manufacturer claims the thermal process it uses adequately removes the mold issue to make the food sterile.

Yeah -- tell that to the kids who got sick. And the FDA seems to disagree with the applesauce-maker's claim.

The Food and Drug Administration says the process is not adequate and wants proof the company is testing for what could be dangerous microbes, stating: “Most mycotoxins are stable compounds that are not destroyed by heat treatment." But to add horrifying to already scary, the FDA actually has a policy that allows companies to "recondition" food -- with the stipulation that the end food product is contaminate-free.

More outrageous, companies aren't required to notify the FDA when they're reprocessing food unless the agency has added related terms because of an inspection or legal action. The FDA does bar combining contaminated, bad food with a good product in order to reach the acceptable level. But then that raises the question: How would anyone know differently?

A baby food manufacturer seems to have aided in the exposure of any processing problems at Snokist, reportedly returned bags of Snokist fruit products a couple of years ago -- stating those foods received were contaminated by a lot of mold. Of half a dozen steps that Snokist was supposed to take to remedy the problems, the FDA seems to believe the company's implemented just two or one-third of what was supposed to have been done. If you think the scope of food is limited, think again: Snokist sold the better part of nearly three and one-half million cases of processed fruit last year -- or roughly 50,000 tons.

To top it off, the Snokist company has been an active supplier of applesauce to schools across the nation. Ironically, it's been serving federal nutrition programs at educational facilities. While a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture claims that no company under investigation by the FDA is allowed to participate in that program, the agency also won't confirm to the press whether the applesauce manufacture has been removed. The reason for that lack of confirmation by the Department of Agriculture seems a little unclear, since rules are rules -- and there seem no reason not to be public in action taken against a company for violating rules. That is, unless of course, action has not been taken -- and the company has yet to be dropped from a program providing what is supposed to be healthy food to school children rather than mold-ridden ones.

In the meantime, rest assured that Snokist is apparently not down for the count. The company seems to be planning a comeback -- supposedly trying to address the FDA concerns (that it was supposed to take care of months ago, or years ago, depending on perspective). Snokist says it's waiting on a new inspection from the FDA, officially allowed 15 days to respond to the recently-issued warning from the agency.

Oddly, the Snokist company's website seems to be down for the time being. Maybe someone isn't looking forward to communication concerns from the public.


Snokist Growers
2506 Terrace Heights Drive
Yakima, WA 98901-1404
United States
Phone: (509) 453-5631
46° 36' 20.1564" N, 120° 27' 51.4152" W
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