FDA Should Investigate Why Sun Orchard was Allowed to Import Unpasteurized Juice, Attorney Says


SEATTLE - According to an article published in the Arizona Republic on July 30, 1999, the FDA found Salmonella in a tanker load of orange juice attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico after Salmonella was implicated in the Sun Orchard poisonings. The juice was returned to mexico and labeled as an “import alert.”

However, “the larger question is why the FDA allowed Sun Orchard to import orange juice from Mexico without the stringent requirements it used in its own plant,” said William Marler, a Seattle attorney representing the class action lawsuit against Sun Orchard. “We have heard reports that Sun Orchard’s plant in Tempe, Arizona was ‘state of the art,’ however, it is evident that Sun Orchard did not require the same standards for the orange juice it imported from Mexico it blended at its plant.”

“Sun Orchard was exempted from FDA labeling requirements because it had convinced the FDA that the Tempe plant exceeded health standards. But, using imported, unpasteurized orange juice was like having no standard at all. It is time for the FDA to assure the American public that its food will be safe,” according to Mr. Marler. The FDA had set forth a labeling requirement that stated: “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and, therefore, may contain harmful bacteria which can cause serious illness in children, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.” It did not require Sun Orchard to use this label.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail, and elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC. In this outbreak there are 207 confirmed cases with an additional 91 pending. Cases have been reported in Washington, Oregon, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. According to Mr. Marler, “we are presently investigating not only hundreds of people who became ill from drinking Sun Orchard juice, but 2 fetal deaths and the death of an elderly man after suffering a stroke. Food-borne pathogens are serious.”

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Marler Clark has been involved in hundreds of cases involving food borne bacteria. These have included the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak; the 1996 Odwalla E. coli outbreak; the 1998 Malt-O-Meal Salmonella outbreak; the 1998 Finley School District E. coli outbreak in the Tri-cities, Washington; and the 1999 Golden Corral E. coli outbreak in Kearney, Nebraska.

More about the Sun Orchard orange juice Salmonella outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.