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A father in Tennessee stirred up a fuss on Facebook in September with a post about his child’s Capri Sun containing mold that went viral. This is not the first time this post has made its rounds on social media. Many parents are left asking if Capri Sun mold is really a thing or not…
“So tonight after dinner our oldest asked for some “juice” (Capri Sun) as a treat for eating good,” he wrote in a post that was accompanied by photo and video evidence. “I grabbed one out of the refrigerator and notice something odd about it… it seems low in content, I take a closer look at the packaging and don’t notice a hole or anything. So I shake it up some, only to find an unknown substance floating around in the package. To say we are irate would be an understatement… we don’t give these to our children often but will NEVER again.”
Nobody wants to find mold in their Capri Sun. Nobody wants to find mold in anything that they’re eating, as far as I can tell, unless they’re on a truly radical probiotic diet. When I saw this post, however, I felt more than disgust and apprehension; I felt deja vu. Haven’t we been here before?
We have indeed. Capri Sun prides itself on being a juice mix that’s free of preservatives. Everything in the pouch is natural, with no added ingredients to stretch out the shelf life. If the manufacturing went right and the integrity of a Capri Sun pouch isn’t compromised before it’s opened, the no-preservatives thing isn’t generally a problem; the juice is contained in a relatively sterile environment, so while it might go off if you leave it well past its expiration date, it’s not likely to start growing stuff.
If anything happens to the Capri Sun pouch, however, it’s a different story. There’s a long history of people finding stuff in their Capri Sun pouches that they didn’t expect to find. Snopes has an excellent write-up of difference incidents over the years that I’ll summarize in brief here. In January 2012, a boy in North Carolina found something in his Capri Sun that his mom thought might have been a worm. Capri Sun’s response was that it was probably mold, which can form itself into worm-like shapes under the right conditions.
The next month, in February of 2012, there was another incident. A Philadelphia mom told her local CBS station that she’d found a glob of mold with unappetizing black dots in her her daughter’s Capri Sun. “Very gross looking, and then if you turn it, you can see little black particles,” she told the station. “I’m concerned about my daughter’s health, about kids drinking this and if they’re at risk.”
In June 2012, two families in Virginia Beach reported that they’d also found mold in their Capri Sun, saying that it tasted “nasty” and “like champagne.” About six months later, a post on Facebook about another contaminated juice pouch went viral, echoing many of the same complaints that we’re hearing in 2018.
Capri Sun responded to the series of mold-related incidents by changing up the designs of their pouches in 2014. Previously, the pouches had silvery bottoms that you couldn’t see through. That’s the way I remember them from the AYSO games of my childhood.
The problem was that there wasn’t anywhere on the Capri Sun that provided a window to the juice. That meant that consumers couldn’t check for themselves whether the pouch had gone off. If there was mold inside, they had to find out by drinking it and getting a nasty surprise, or by cutting the pouch open entirely, which sort of defeats the point of a juice pouch in the first place.
As part of their 2014 redesign, Capri Sun introduced a clear plastic bottom to their pouches. That was intended to give customers just such a window to peer through to see if there was mold inside or not. With the visual check, they would at least be spared having to find out that the product had a clump of mold in it the hard and gross way, which in this case is tasting the mold sight unseen.
The PR problem of mold, however, has persisted for Capri Sun, as evidenced by last month’s viral Facebook post. People just don’t like finding slimy clumps of something in a drink that they bought and paid for, regardless of whether or not that drink comes with a convenient clear plastic window with which to spot the slimy clump.
That’s the dilemma for Capri Sun: a big part of their image and branding is that they’re selling a natural product that’s free of preservatives. People like that, and they respond to it, because most people have the general sense that a good bit of the food out there is loaded up with nasty chemicals that do their health no favors in the long run. Foods advertised as being without preservatives sound cleaner, and safer, and better for their health.
The problem, of course, is that preservatives serve an important purpose; they preserve food. They help to stave off spoilage and the growth of things like mold. Mold spores are microscopic, much too small to be seen without the help of magnification, and they’re near-ubiquitous. They’re everywhere in the natural world, which is how mold manages to spring up so quickly in so many places. Even a well-sealed Capri Sun isn’t totally safe; the spores are so common that you’ll probably eventually get mold in a Capri Sun that’s sat out for long enough. A small hole or tear in the pouch only increases the likelihood of such an outcome.
By: Sean McNulty, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)
* Photo courtesy of the Associated Press – https://wset.com/news/nation-world/father-posts-psa-after-he-finds-mold-in-kids-juice-pouch