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U.S. Bans Mexico Orange Juice

U.S. officials have banned the import of Mexican juice after a recent salmonella outbreak traced to unpasteurized orange juice blended in Arizona.

Federal officials said they instituted a border check for salmonella after the juice blended at Sun Orchards Inc. in Tempe, Ariz., was suspected in the outbreak discovered in late June.

The additional checks found salmonella and led to the ban, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesman said Thursday.

The tainted juice had been recalled voluntarily and production was halted but not before about 200 people suffered diarrhea, fatigue and other symptoms of food poisoning in several states including Washington, Oregon, Arizona and Utah and in some Canadian provinces.

At one point, the FDA issued a national warning against drinking the unpasteurized juice.

Since then, the juice has been removed from circulation and "the epidemic is over," said Al Brown, Maricopa County environmental services director.

FDA spokesman Gil Meza said Thursday that salmonella was found in a tanker load of juice from Mexico's Citro Tam Sociedad at the Pharr, Texas, port of entry.

Before the outbreak, Meza said, border inspections checked for pesticides but not for salmonella because it wasn't believed to be a hazard in a product as acidic as orange juice.

However, salmonella checks were begun after the June 23 report of the outbreak and "apparently, three shipments tested positive," Meza said. That led to an "import alert" July 16, and the juice was returned to Mexico.

Now the Mexican producer must pass inspection for salmonella five times before its juice will be allowed into the United States again, Meza said.

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