Parmalat South Africa is assuring the public that their products are safe to consume, after it recalled about 300 packs of PureJoy apple juice that was found to contain traces of sodium hydroxide or caustic soda.
"PureJoy juice is safe to consume and other than the small window of products (Pure Joy Apple 200ml) produced on the 14 and 15 December, all PureJoy products, including apple 200ml are very safe to consume," Parmalat spokesperson André Mahoney told Health24 on Wednesday.
"No other Parmalat products have been affected, including no other PureJoy Juice. All other Parmalat products continue to have the high quality standards that consumers have come to expect from Parmalat products."
Initially, Paramalat said most of the distribution occurred in the Western Cape, but that consumers or distributors could have taken the product into other areas.
Why a nationwide recall?
"We have ascertained thus far that products have gone to other regions as well, although the majority of the distribution is still in the Western Cape," said Mahoney.
He re-iterated that an irregular process that was a combination of technological issues and new processes led to the juice being contaminated with caustic soda.
"There was no malice in how it got into the packs. Sodium Hydroxide is used to clean and sterilise the production lines and there are no long term side effects to this chemical."
Mahoney said the investigation is still ongoing and that it is still an internal process with no outside influence.
Independent sample inspections
However, the National Consumer Commission (NCC) on Wednesday said its investigations unit is monitoring the product recall, adding that it will take sample inspections to ensure all affected products were recalled.
"Although we are pleased with Parmalat's swift action to investigate and recall the product, it is still concerning that two consumers had to first suffer discomfort and inconvenience before the product contamination was detected," NCC commissioner Ebrahim Mohamed said in a statement.
He said consumers have a right to fair value, good quality and safety in terms of the Consumer Protection Act. "We trust that Parmalat will fully remedy this problem and prevent any recurrence."
Mahoney said Parmalat have put measures in place to mitigate fully against this type of incident occurring again.
He also encourage the public to phone 0860 66 44 22 and email them at Parmalat@121group.co.za if there are any concerns and to have the packs in front of them so that they can verify the pack and date codes.
Here are the full product details:
Parmalat 200ml UHT PureJoy Apple Juice is packaged in a green-coloured 200ml UHT carton with straw attached. It is marked as follows:
- Parmalat (brand)
- PureJoy Juice (product)
- Apple (flavour)
- 200ml (pack size)
- Information in Best Before box on top of pack:
P 14.12.14 (production date) and P 15.12.14
E 14.12.15 (expiry date) and E 15.12.15
ZA 5/19 (factory code)
What happens when ingesting caustic soda
Dr Gerhard Verdoorn, director at the Griffon Poison information centre, explained to Health24 that caustic soda is a highly alkaline, solid white powder that is commonly used to unblock drains.
He said the pH of the stomach, which varies from 1-2 up to 4-5, should help neutralise the chemical, but the mucous membranes in the mouth and the oesophagus is where damage can be caused if ingested in any significant concentration.
Symptoms to look out for are vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and cramps and any signs of blood in the stool or when vomiting.
"If you rub your lips with your finger, your skin should come off. You will feel a soapy feeling on your lips and in your mouth. If it is not significant, you will not feel anything and it may not cause any damage," said Verdoorn.