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Harmless Harvest Halts the Bottling of its Coconut Water

Harmless Harvest Halts the Bottling of its Coconut Water

One of the most popular and beloved brands in the organic food industry, Harmless Harvest, surprised us with a Christmas gift that none of us wanted to receive – news that it has temporarily halted the bottling of its prized coconut water. If you go to the company’s website, there is a long letter from the new […]

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LivingMaxwell.com

harmless-harvest-ceases-operations-fdaOne of the most popular and beloved brands in the organic food industry, Harmless Harvest, surprised us with a Christmas gift that none of us wanted to receive – news that it has temporarily halted the bottling of its prized coconut water.

If you go to the company’s website, there is a long letter from the new CEO, Giannella Alvarez, eloquently saying many different things including that:

We have recently received a letter from the FDA requesting we comply with additional quality criteria to ensure consumers receive an added layer of product quality and safety from delivery into their hands.

The letter from the FDA said that there were serious violations of the company’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan and that “spores of Clostridium botulinum have demonstrated the ability to germinate and grow in low acid juices (such as coconut juice), producing toxin.”

According to the World Health Organization, Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that produces dangerous toxins (botulinum toxins) under low-oxygen conditions, which can result in death.

In retrospect, this news about Harmless Harvest is not a huge surprise. Why?

The FDA seems to be spending a lot of time these days scrutinizing unpasteurized coconut water.

Exotic Superfoods, a raw, non-HPP coconut water brand that imports its products from Thailand as well, also has had trouble with the FDA and for a similar reason – concerns about botulism.

IF AND WHEN IT WILL RETURN

What is important to note is that any Harmless Harvest coconut water that is either currently on supermarket shelves or already in inventory has been deemed safe by the FDA. The FDA has not issued a recall nor has it declared that these products have been contaminated.

Since this is a new category, the FDA appears to be taking a precautionary stance here in regards to future production, and the company says that it is making the necessary adjustments to go above and beyond what is required by the agency.

As such, any disruption in the supply of Harmless Harvest coconut water will happen if the company runs out of its current inventory and bottling has still not resumed yet. Given the popularity of its original coconut water, one could expect to see this flavor run out of stock well before some of its other flavors, such as the coffee coconut water.

With the completion of a new round of financing and the recruitment of a very experienced senior management team (co-founders Justin Guilbert and Douglas Riboud have since moved into product development roles), Harmless Harvest appears to be in a strong position to weather this storm. Yet, the stoppage of bottling could last well into 2016.

CEO Giannella Alvarez has said that she expects the company “to be back up and running for the busy summer months”.

MY TAKE

Given this matter with the FDA, is Harmless Harvest a product that I would still consume?

Absolutely.

After all, there has been no recall and there has been no contamination.

Furthermore, I have known co-founders Justin Guilbert and Douglas Riboud for several years now, and I firmly believe that these are two people who would not cut corners when it comes to the safety of their products.

For those of us who are huge Harmless Harvest coconut water fans, let’s hope that this issue gets resolved as soon as possible.

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12 Comments

  • Coconut water looks particularly great for magnesium, a mineral which helps acne through improving sleep quality, improving blood levels of stress hormones etc. It contains lot of potassium or calcium.Thanks for sharing.

  • Kate says:

    I got sick from this diahhrea both times I had only a few sips and I use to drink this daily ! I think it’s got bacteria my friend said same thing she’s been throwing up since coconut water ! Both got same brand harvest bay

  • Coconut water is an incredible thirst quencher that offers both a tasty alternative to water but more importantly a very healthy one at that. Thanks.

  • Jamiann Henrichsen says:

    Couple of ideas/comments:

    @Heather I totally agree, coconut water eliminates my colds and also gets rids of allergies, too. Your so right, this isn’t surprising as it seems like every positive and healthful real food on the market has been getting closely scrutinize… they want to make it a drug and sell it to us … watch next they are going to say we have to get vitamin C with a prescription.

    @MaxGoldberg Instead of bottling in Thailand they could Export/Ship in Giant Plastic Bladders and bottle in glass in the US, as you are right….shipping glass bottles from Thailand would be incredibly expensive.

  • Douglas Gray says:

    I was in the co-op in Pacific Palisades, CA, and noticed that the store (which has very meticulous, high standards) did not carry fresh, green coconuts like Whole Foods. I asked the produce buyer for the reason, and he told me that a lot of the green coconuts entering the U.S. are irradiated, and that he is not satisfied that he can get them and know that they are not treated with radiation.

    I love buying fresh coconut juice in Brazil, on the beach, but I wonder about the ones coming from Thailand. I would be interested in more information from those who are in the import business.

    Sincerely,

    Douglas Gray
    aspendougy@gmail.com

  • Heather says:

    I love Harmless Harvest and have repeatedly told others about how awesome it is from East to West coast. I have found that it is the only organic coconut water on the market that tastes like actual coconut water. I’ve found that coconut water eliminates my colds if I begin to get one and also gets rids of allergies for me. This isn’t surprising as it seems like every positive and healthful real food on the market has been getting closely scrutinized. Such a bummer, because if they change the way they process their product and make it cooked like the other brands, I won’t be a customer any longer and that really is a bummer as I purchase it all the time 🙁

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Heather,

      I am getting additional information from the company about how the process will be changed and upgraded. It is my understanding, however, that pasteurization will not be part of the new process. This gets pretty technical here and I believe the upgrade will be around filtration, not heat. Stay tuned on this one.

      Thanks,
      Max

  • Steve Yakoban says:

    @Marcus – great comment. I totally agree w/you and that’s why we don’t buy coconut water. The only glass bottled brand we can find is not organic. All the other organics are in plastic or even worse, Tetrapak boxes which can leach BP-A.

    Too bad organic certifiers do not certify the end product (packaged) and allow otherwise organic content to be tainted.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Steve,

      Please see my response below to Marcus. Also, certifiers do certify the end product, so I am not sure what you are referring to.

      Live well,
      Max

  • Marcus says:

    I like Harmless Harvest product and I hope this issue is resolved. I’ve always had one question for the Harmless harvest owners, why the plastic bottles?? Yes, I get to keep the cost lower, but Harmless Harvest is not a cheap product. Consumer are willing paying top dollar for quality product (approx $8/bottle). So I don’t get why not bottle in glass for purity. I always taste the plastic in the product, even it’s plastic bottle water. So for me, the “organic” liquid is compromised when packaged in plastic bottles, sorry it’s no longer organic in my opinion.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Marcus,

      They use plastic bottles because the company utilizes HPP (high pressure processing) as an alternative to pasteurization. Glass bottles would break in the HPP process.

      It is certainly a trade-off here. While I agree that glass is better, HPP retains more of the nutrients and vitamins than traditional pasteurization. But it also means using plastic.

      Also, shipping glass bottles from Thailand would be incredibly expensive.

      Live well,
      Max

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