Four-year-old Azia Iannantuono got a nasty surprise when she took a sip of her Oasis orange juice last week.
“I was thirsty, so Momma gave me that, and then, it tasted gross,” Azia says.
"She drank and said 'Mommy, this tastes really funny,’” says mother Nancy Iannantuono.
She took a sip of her daughter's juice and also noticed a strange taste.
"So we opened it up, and lo and behold, we saw this disgusting stuff come out of the box."
The family took photos and contacted the juice maker’s parent company, Lassonde Industries, which is based in Rougemont, Que.
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They also checked the rest of the juice in the case they bought and found two other boxes were also contaminated with the disgusting debris.
The juice box is stamped with an expiration date of May 5, 2014.
Not a bad batch: Oasis
Iannantuono says the company, which initially replied to her, stopped answering after she sent them the pictures she took.
"They told me not to worry, if she hadn't gotten sick, she wouldn't get sick," Iannantuono says.
A spokesperson for Lassonde Industries told CBC News it tested a sample from the same batch, and says the juice was fine.
'It tasted gross.'—Azia Iannantuono, 4
The company says it produced more than half a million packages in that run, and that this was the only complaint.
"We believe those containers were damaged somewhere during the distribution. Obviously, we don't have the container, so I'm not able to validate it at this point. But because it was the only issue that has been reported, we believe it's isolated,” Stefano Bertolli, vice-president of communications for Lassonde, says.
The company referred CBC News to a pair of videos released on YouTube prior to CBC's story.
One explains that because Oasis juices contain no preservatives, it is important to refrigerate the juice boxes once they have been opened. "As long as our container is sealed and air can't get in, there is no chance of contamination," Pierre Turner, vice-president of quality management, says in the video. The second video explains that "it's not possible for rocks, insects, or any other object to get into a juice container on the production line."
Distributors usually not to blame
McGill University food safety professor Lawrence Goodridge says it's hard to know exactly what happened in this case, but adds that distributors are usually not to blame.
“Generally, I don't think you're going to see a carton that looks perfectly intact — no damage or anything — open it and then claim that's because something happened during distribution,” Goodridge says.
He says mould spores can survive pasteurization and then grow inside a container.
He and another food safety expert contacted by CBC News agree that if the containers did not appear to be leaking, it could be possible the contamination happened at the plant.
Lassonde Industries has asked the Iannantuono family for a sample and will test the substance.
The Quebec Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food MAPAQ) told Iannantuono after she contacted them that it would send an inspector to the plant and that it would also collect a specimen of the juice in question.