FDA shuts down Sun Valley Juice Co.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered Sun Valley Juice Co. in Ketchum to stop making and selling orange and grapefruit juice, citing the company’s failure to comply with laws and regulations that deem the juice safe for consumption.

“When a company repeatedly disobeys food safety laws and regulations, and does not stick to a court-ordered agreement designed to protect public health, the FDA must use the full power of the courts to protect consumers,” FDA Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs Melinda K. Plaiser said.

But the company’s owner, John Scherer, told the Idaho Mountain Express that he was ordered to stop production last month because he did not report a change in the manufacturing process in which fruit is soaked in peracetic acid, an organic, antimicrobial solution, before being juiced.

Scherer said the company created a hazard-prevention plan as part of a court-ordered agreement with the FDA in 2006. The plan includes use of peracetic acid as a antimicrobial soak in water ranging from 86 to 94 degrees. He said refrigeration of the produce used for juicing tends to lower the water temperature to around 60 degrees and that the temperature drop was the main reason for the shutdown.

Scherer said the temperature drop was not deemed hazardous by company employees because the acid solution is purported to work effectively at temperatures as low as 40 degrees. He said regular monthly tests from a lab in Boise also confirmed the juice was safe.

“We’ve been making juice since 1991 here in Ketchum and we’ve never had any report or indication that anyone has become sick from our product,” Scherer said. “We have our product tested in Boise once a month and have been doing so for the past seven years and have never had a bad test. But that’s not good enough for the government.”

An FDA press officer, Lauren E. Sucher, said in an email that Sun Valley Juice was also cited for failure to keep timely records of production sanitation concentrations and temperatures as well as standard sanitation operating procedures.

The juice is sold in the Ketchum area. Whit Atkinson, a co-owner of Wood River Valley grocer Atkinsons’ Markets, said Sun Valley Juice Co. products have been absent from the store’s shelves for nearly a week. “People are really missing it,” he said.