A western Canadian juice giant is defending its product safety after consumer complaints involving foreign objects found in its juice boxes.

SunRype, western Canada's largest manufacturer of fruit based food and beverages, boasts that its popular 100 per cent pure apple juice is free of preservatives – but it’s leading some people to question how the product stays fresh.

CTV viewer Mike Srdich sent consumer reporter Lynda Steele a home video of a box of SunRype apple juice with a slimy surprise inside. The box contained a large, slippery white and brown chunk that was at the bottom of the container.

"When I pulled it out, at first I tell you, I'm not joking, I thought it was dead mouse or something," said Mike Srdich.

A Surrey woman also claims she found something disgusting in her box of SunRype apple juice recently. At first she thought it was a rubber glove, but Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials tested the foreign matter and emailed to inform her that "it does appear to be a mould. The green stuff is the spore layer, while the orange shiny stuff is the roots of the mould. It looks like a rubber glove because the mould has been suspended in the liquid."

SunRype insists there's nothing wrong with its manufacturing process and there’s no evidence of a bad batch of juice.

"All of our juice is pasteurized and also it’s high acidity. And that combination of heat pasteurization and high acidity in juice really inhibits the growth of anything that could lead to a food-bourne illness," said SunRype CEO Dave McAnerney. “It's upsetting for us at SunRype whenever a consumer has a negative experience with our product."

Federal food inspectors visited the SunRype plant the day before the CTV interview.

“We concurred that these are rare and isolated. They're not related in the same production batch so that's why we believe it's an isolated occurrence," said McAnerney.

The CFIA refused CTV’s requests for an interview, but confirms it has received a complaint and is investigating. For its part, SunRype stands behind its product, insisting the juice container must have been punctured in order for the mould to grow inside.

"In this case we've assessed it and it's a damaged container. The damage can occur anywhere in the distribution channel or it can occur in the consumer's own home, if the product was opened," McAnerney said.

Last December, a Prince Rupert family alleged they got sick after drinking SunRype fruit juice. According to a newspaper report, when the consumer inspected the container, she says she found a “large chunky substance” inside. Doctors at the hospital there speculated it was fungal mould. In that case, SunRype mailed a letter of apology indicating that carton might have been “damaged compromising the seal integrity and allowing air to enter the package. SunRaype also enclosed $20 worth of juice coupons. 

CTV’s Dr. Rhonda Low says it's possible someone whose immune system is severely compromised might experience problems from ingesting this type of mould. However, federal health inspectors don't seem overly concerned and would not respond to CTV’s questions about whether this mould poses a health risk. SunRype maintains there is no risk to health.

If consumers find something strange in their juice container they can call 1-888-SUN-RYPE (786-7973) or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at 1-800-442-2342 to report it. And remember, despite the expiry date on the carton, once the container is open the juice is only good for seven to ten days.