Minute Maid Recall: Possible Metal Contamination in Juice

In November 2021, the Food and Drug Administration said that some Minute Maid drinks might contain metal bolts or washers.

As one of its responsibilities, the Food and Drug Administration plays a pivotal role in keeping the foods we eat safe and ensuring the public's health. 

The safety of our food supply helps to avoid the incidence of food poisoning. One way the Food and Drug Administration accomplishes that goal is by reviewing and recalling products that may contain harmful substances. For example, the Food and Drug Administration may recall baby spinach due to suspected E. coli contamination or peanut butter for salmonella contamination.

And in November 2021, the Food and Drug Administration reported that Coca-Cola voluntarily recalled several Minute Maid juices following concerns over possible metal contamination. 

Here's what you should know about the Minute Maid recall—including how the Food and Drug Administration ensures public safety through recalling products and why metal can end up in products.

Minute Maid Product Recall

On November 10, 2021, Coca-Cola Company recalled several Minute Maid products over concerns about metal contamination. The recall lasted until March 3, 2022.

The recall, which the company voluntarily initiated, came after Coca-Cola determined that consumers may find foreign objects in certain drinks. According to a report by the Food and Drug Administration, those foreign objects were metal bolts or washers, possibly in whole or in pieces.

Impact of the Recall

In November 2021, the recall impacted specific lots of 59-ounce cartons of the following juices:

  • Minute Maid Berry Punch
  • Minute Maid Strawberry Lemonade
  • Minute Maid Fruit Punch

In all, the recall impacted 7,475 cases of product. The affected products had January 2022 expiration dates. Stores distributed the juices in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Consumers could see the impacted products' exact UPCs and dating information by visiting the FDA's website.

The November 2021 recall was a class II recall. The FDA states that Class II recalls involve products that can cause "temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences." Also, the impacted products remotely increase your chance of becoming sick.

In a statement to Health, Coca-Cola spokesperson Ann L. Moore explained that the recall started in November 2021 and was "completed" by December 2021. According to Moore, it was highly unlikely that consumers would accidentally pick up an impacted beverage in stores at that time. But Coca-Cola urged consumers to toss affected items if they had already purchased them.

"We took this voluntary action because nothing is more important to us than providing safe, high-quality products to the people who drink our beverages," explained Moore.

The Coca-Cola recall was one of many recalls over concerns about metal contamination around the same time. In November 2021, Kraft Heinz recalled a slew of powdered drinks from Arizona Tea, Country Time Lemonade, Kool-Aid, and Tang over concerns about small metal fragments in the mixes.

How Metal Can Get Into Drinks

It all comes down to the manufacturing process, food safety expert Felicia Wu, PhD, a professor at Michigan State University, told Health. Wu explained that metal pieces and shards could end up in your drinks or food if they break off during processing. 

"That can happen at any point in the manufacturing chain," added Wu.

Additionally, Darin Detwiler LPD, MAEd, associate professor of food safety at Northeastern University, told Health that there are "a lot" of recalls around metal shavings, metal objects, glass, plastic, and rubber pieces ending up in food. 

"It can happen when machines are involved," explained Detwiler. 

Detwiler added that some companies will scan their products to see if there is any debris, but it doesn't catch everything.

The Health Effects of Swallowing Metal

According to one article published in 2015 in the Journal of the Belgian Society of Radiology, there's a range of potential health effects that may occur after accidentally swallowing metal objects, including: 

  • Punctures of the stomach or bowels
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Infections
  • Blood vessel clots
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding

The specific effects a person will have depend on a few factors, including how big the metal is and whether it's in shards, Mark Conroy, MD, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Health

"The biggest concern is that the pieces could get stuck in your esophagus or somewhere in your stomach and would need to be removed," explained Dr. Conroy. "That would be an emergency." And if a piece of metal is sharp, it could "injure structures as it moves through" your body, added Dr. Conroy.

Large pieces of metal also "represent a choking hazard," Diane Calello, MD, executive and medical director of the New Jersey Poison Center, told Health.

There are also concerns about what the metal can do once it's in your stomach. 

"Once ingested, the stomach acid can allow the metal to degrade and absorb in [the] bloodstream, leading to acute metal toxicity," Arashdeep Litt, MD, an internist at Spectrum Health in Michigan, told Health

And if large pieces manage to get down your throat without choking, they "can get lodged in narrow areas [along your digestive tract] and cause obstruction," noted Dr. Litt.

Symptoms of Consuming Metal

If you accidentally consume a food or drink contaminated with metal, "you may not have any symptoms," according to Dr. Conroy. But even if you have symptoms, you wouldn't necessarily think that you'd accidentally swallowed something metal, he added.

According to Dr. Litt, symptoms can include: 

  • A feeling that something is stuck in your esophagus—the tube that runs from your throat to your stomach
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swallowing issues
  • A feeling as though you are full

While anyone can develop symptoms, per the 2015 Journal of the Belgian Society of Radiology review, diverticulosis can increase the risk of diverticulitis. Diverticulosis happens when small pouches that bulge form in your digestive system. And diverticulitis occurs when those pouches become inflamed. 

If you have diverticulosis and accidentally swallow metal, the object could get stuck in the pouches, causing inflammation.

Diagnosis and Treatment After Swallowing Metal

Treatment depends on several factors. According to Dr. Conroy, if you go to the emergency room with pain-related issues or know you've swallowed metal, healthcare providers may scan your abdomen.

Per an article published in 2021 in the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health, it's not rare for people, especially children, to seek emergency care for symptoms associated with accidentally swallowing foreign bodies. 

The researchers reported several methods healthcare providers could use to evaluate the symptoms, including imaging tests and metal detectors.

Dr. Calello said healthcare providers would locate the metal, see if it's lodged anywhere, and take note of its shape and size. If the piece of metal is small and doesn't appear to have sharp edges, your healthcare provider may recommend that you pass it naturally, explained Dr. Calello.

"If it's larger than 2.5 centimeters, that will usually tip them off that you might have trouble passing this," said Dr. Conroy. 

In that case, your healthcare provider may perform an endoscopy. An endoscopy involves inserting a long, flexible tube down your throat and into your esophagus. Then, they try to grab the metal, explained Dr. Conroy.

But if there's an obstruction, Dr. Calello said you might need surgery. According to an article published in 2021 in Laryngology and Otology, there can be challenges when removing metal objects from the gastrointestinal system. Healthcare providers can use various procedures to remove the metal safely.

A Quick Review

It's a good idea to pay attention to recalls for your safety and the safety of others. But even if you are careful, accidents can happen. 

If you or someone you're taking care of develops unusual symptoms, call a healthcare provider or seek emergency medical care. Early treatment can often prevent problems from getting worse.

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