Two store brands of organic juices were recalled last week by a grocery store in uptown New York. The recall occurred after it was realized that the juices were contaminated with mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are a natural chemical that are produced by fungi, for example mushrooms or even mold, such as the green mold that grows on stale bread. These chemicals are abundant in nature, particularly one type known patulin. This is specifically found in pears or apples and occurs as a result of the mold that might grow on the fruits.
This week also saw Winn-Dixie voluntarily recall its 100% organic apple juice, since it was found to contain more than the legal content of patulin. Stores like Wegmans Food Markets have removed the juice from its shelves following the announcement. They also removed the cranberry juice that was also recalled for high levels of patulin. According to the FDA, the maximum level of patulin that is allowed for human consumption is 50 ppb (parts per billion) and in the two juices, the levels that were recorded hit a little above the limit at 56 ppb. The safety agency is very strict, and rightly so, and offer very little margin of error.
The specific types of molds that produce patulin are strains of penicilium. Although most mycotoxins can be removed by pasteurization, since it destroys the molds, patulin is still stable under those temperatures. In fact, high temperatures and levels of moisture encourage the growth of mold and the mycotoxin producing fungi. As of now, it has not yet been established whether the levels of patulin have sickened any of the customers who drank the juice before it was recalled. Research on the effects of the toxins has not yet been carried out on humans, but on experimental rats. patulin in high doses was linked to gastrointestinal problems.