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FDA seizes substandard peaches

FDA seizes substandard peaches – Food and Drug Administration

Kevin L. Ropp

The Food and Drug Administration’s New York district office and a New York importer of Greek peaches signed a consent decree Nov. 6, 1992, requiring the company to relabel or destroy contaminated peaches.

The U.S. District Court of New Jersey approved the decree Nov. 10.

FDA first noted a problem with the peaches imported by Alcona, Inc. of Syosset, N.Y., during an inspection of the firm July 9, 1991. New York district inspector Brian Brody sampled two lots of the peaches at Pittston warehouse in New Jersey, where Alcona had them delivered for storage pending release by FDA for distribution in the United States.

Brody opened 192 of the 2,000 cartons in the shipment, checking the 6-pound cans for any defects and collecting samples for analysis. He noticed several inconsistencies that made him suspicious:

First, the peaches were being imported through Canada. “Usually, Greek peaches come straight here to the Port of New York [from Greece] ,” Brody said.

Second, there were no labels on any of the cans or cartons in either of the two 1ots. Brody suspected the labels had been tom off before arrival in New York because glue marks remained where the labels had been, he said.

And third, Brody noticed the date and initials. “FDA 2/26/91 AMK” on one of the cartons, indicating the peaches had been previously inspected by FDA.

The New York district office’s import operations branch conducted a computer search of all agency offices that had detained canned peaches since Feb. 26.

On July 22, after calling several offices on the list, Brody learned the peaches had first been shipped to Baltimore by World Pride Enterprises, N.Y., and inspected and detained there after laboratory analysis found mold in the peaches.

Deciding to reexport the peaches rather than destroy them, World Pride shipped them to Canada, where Alcona purchased them.

Arnon Ziv, Alcona’s owner, removed the labels and tried to import the peaches into the United States through Buffalo on July 5. But when the Buffalo district office decided to sample them, he shipped the peaches to New York City instead.

This practice, in which a shipper or importer goes from port to port in an effort to evade import regulations and bring in violative products, is known as “port shopping.” (See “New Initiatives for Import Safety” in the October 1992 FDA Consumer.)

Upon arrival in New York, the peaches were stored at Pittston warehouse until Brody inspected them July 9.

Based on the inspection findings and the laboratory results of samples collected, which showed the peaches contained Geotrichum mold, the New York district office asked the New Jersey officials to embargo the peaches. When Brody returned to the warehouse on July 25 with an official from the New Jersey Department of Health, however, the peaches were gone.

Brody learned from a warehouse executive that Ziv sold the peaches to Port Royal Sales, Great Neck, N.Y., and they were shipped out July 11 and 12. Port Royal then sold the peaches to H. Maramount, a Philadelphia manufacturer with offices in Brooklyn, N.Y.

When confronted with the violation July 25, Ziv agreed to get the peaches back, but he could not trace their location.

On July 17, Alcona had again tried to import Greek peaches into the United States through Canada. The New York district office issued a Notice of Sampling requesting the location of the peaches, but Ziv failed to respond.

Then, on Sept. 3, during a routine inspection, FDA inspectors sampled one lot of Nifda Chef-pac brand Greek peaches Alcona had stored at the Apollo warehouse in Newark, N.J., and sent the samples to the New York Regional Laboratory for analysis. Test results indicated the peaches contained excessive pits and pit fragments, as well as mold.

When FDA officials returned to the warehouse, they found that Alcona had distributed some of the peaches before receiving FDA approval.

At FDA’ s request, New Jersey officials embargoed the remaining peaches on Sept. 17, 1991. On Oct. 17, FDA issued Alcona a warning letter for twice shipping peaches before FDA had released them for sale and for failing to make a shipment available for inspection.

The warning letter required Alcona to outline steps the firm Was taking to prevent future violations.

On May 19, 1992, at FDA’s request, U.S. marshals seized the more than 1,000 cases of Greek peaches belonging to Alcona because they contained excessive pit fragments and mold.

According to FDA attorney Michael Petty, the consent decree will require that any peaches remaining at the Apollo warehouse that contain excessive pits and pit flagments be brought into compliance with the law by being relabeled as below standard, or destroyed. The company is under court order not to remove the peaches.

–Kevin L. Ropp

COPYRIGHT 1993 U.S. Government Printing Office

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