Federal judge orders former Sunnyside juice maker to destroy products

Valley Processing Sunnyside

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — A federal judge has approved a permanent injunction against a former Sunnyside juice manufacturer accused of selling juice products that were “unfit for human consumption” and distributed to school children across the country through a federal school lunch program.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration asked for the injunction as part of a lawsuit filed Nov. 6 against Valley Processing and owner Mary Ann Bliesner after inspectors found high levels of inorganic arsenic and patulin toxins, which can pose health risks to consumers.

“Investigators observed that the defendants processed juice under grossly insanitary conditions and failed to adhere to relevant food safety standards,” an FDA news release said. “This included storing grape juice concentrate contaminated with filth and mold in off-site storage tanks and covered barrels outside for several years.”

FDA officials said that expired product, along with leftover sludge at the bottom of  juice concentrate barrels, was mixed with newer lots of juice and distributed the contaminated mixture to consumers.

“Defendants promised to discontinue using the contaminated juice, but a subsequent inspection by the FDA in 2019 showed the defendants continued to blend the older juice with newer juice for distribution,” the release said.

Read the full investigation by KAPP-KVEW here.

The consent decree of permanent injunction filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington prohibits Valley Processing, Inc. from, “receiving, preparing, processing, packing, holding, labeling, and/or distributing FDA-regulated products unless and until it completes corrective actions,” according to the release.

Valley Processing had already stopped making juice and shut down prior to the order, but the injunction means the company has to destroy any juice still in its possession.

“Before processing or distributing any juice or food in the future, the defendants first must notify the FDA in advance, comply with specific remedial measures set forth in the injunction, and permit the FDA to inspect their facilities and procedures,” the release said.