CNN reported this week that Coca-Cola is shutting down the juice and smoothie brand Odwalla at the end of July. Coca-Cola purchased the brand in 2001.

Coca-Cola made the call “given a rapidly shifting marketplace and despite every effort to support continued production,” John Hackett, president of Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid business unit, which includes the company’s juice brands, said in a statement e-mailed to CNN Business.

Coca-Cola had been assessing Odwalla’s business for the past several years, according to a company spokesperson, who added that the decision to discontinue the brand is not directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. Health-conscious consumers are less interested in smoothies than they used to be, she explained.

“This decision was not made lightly,” he added.

Forgive me if I do not “lightly” shed a tear for anyone but the child that died in 1996, and several others who were stricken with acute kidney failure, after consuming Odwalla’s unpasteurized apple juice.  I represented many of those sickened and left with life-long complications.

In October of 1996, the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health linked 13 cases of E. coli O157:H7 to unpasteurized apple juice sold by Odwalla. The FDA subsequently announced a recall of all Odwalla juices containing raw apple juice.

The E. coli outbreak eventually included 65 confirmed victims in the western United States and British Columbia. More than a dozen victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) from their infections (acute kidney failure). One Colorado toddler died.

During the course of the litigation, we uncovered that Odwalla had attempted to sell its juice in 1996 to the U.S. Army – no, not as a biological weapon – but to be sold in base grocery stores to our men and women service members and their families. The Army rejected the product – because it was not fit for military consumers.  This letter tells that story:

Despite being told by the Army that it would not buy Odwalla’s product, Odwalla continued to ignore the warnings and to not test its product, because it did not want to document that it was in fact unsafe.

Odwalla kept selling the product to pregnant women and children until it poisoned too many people to be ignored.

The Court ordered the disclosure of Odwalla’s emails:

Odwalla paid out 10’s of millions of dollars in settlements to the victims of its pathogenetic juice.

In 1998, Odwalla was indicted and held criminally liable for the 1996 E. coli outbreak. The company pled guilty to 16 federal criminal charges and agreed to pay a $1.5 million fine.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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