A schoolgirl was rushed to A&E with sickness, diarrhoea and a ‘burning throat’ – after she drank a Fruit Shoot which ‘tasted like oven cleaner’.
Environmental Health Officers are investigating after Ellie Robinson-Smith, 10, gulped a few mouthfuls of a summer fruits Fruit Shoot and was taken ill.
She had removed two bottles from a multipack, pulled off the plastic lids and handed one of the Robinson’s drinks to her three-year-old sister, Heidi.
But when she took a gulp she immediately noticed something was wrong, so gave one to mum Sammi Smith to have a try.
Mum-of-two Sammi, 29, said: “I opened the lid to smell it and it smelt really bad. I wanted to throw up straight away.
“I tried it and it was absolutely disgusting.
“It was supposed to taste like summer fruits but instead tasted and smelt like nail varnish remover or cleaning fluid.
“I was so worried. We had no idea what it was.”
Sammi, from Gravesend, Kent, dialled the number on the bottle and was told to send a sample to Britvic, who make Fruit Shoot, so they could test it.
But over the next hour or so, Ellie, who is now 11, became seriously unwell – complaining of a burning throat, sickness and diarrhoea.
Terrified, Sammi called 101 and spoke to a concerned operator – who recommend they go to A&E at nearby Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, straight away.
She said: “I was panicking. By the time we got to the hospital it had been a couple of hours since Ellie had the drink.
“The nurse I gave the bottle to was really worried about her. We poured some of the drink into a test tube and there were little white bits floating around.
“He was running around showing all the nurses. They had no idea what was in it.
“They did an ECG on Ellie straight away and wanted to do observations on her.”
After some hours, the nurses decided Ellie’s observations were OK so set her home.
But for the next few days, she and Sammi suffered from severe diarrhoea and stomach pains – meaning Ellie had to miss three days of school.
Sammi contacted her local council, Gravesham Borough Council, who passed the complaint on to Thurrock Council.
She then met with an Environmental Health Officer and showed her the bottle – and an investigation was launched.
The results are pending – but Britvic said they believe the bottle was contaminated with a penicillium-type mould, which can cause people to feel or be sick.
They told Sammi the mould can react with preservative in the drink to produce a very strong “petrol or chemical” taste and smell.
Sammi said she bought the Fruit Shoots in a 48-bottle multi-pack from Costco in Thurrock last Friday and Ellie opened one drink on Sunday.
They were not due to expire for another six months.
“If Ellie’s little sister, Heidi, had gotten hold of that bottle, she would have gulped it all down,” said Sammi, a full-time mum.
“If you gave it to a young child they wouldn’t necessarily spit it out. That’s what worries me.”
Sammi wrote a Facebook post warning other parents about what happened, which has been shared by more than 50,000 people since last Tuesday.
After reading the post, mum Debbie Hobden came forward to say exactly the same thing had happened to her six-year-old daughter after she sipped a summer fruits-flavour drink.
Tallulah Kerens suffered headaches, had a sore throat and mouth ulcers and felt sick. As a result, she missed school for a week.
The bottle had the same best before date as the one which made Ellie sick – July 2016.
Debbie, 43, who bought the drink from her local Londis in Westleigh, Hants. last weekend, said: “Tallulah took a swig and said, ‘it doesn’t taste very nice’.
“I opened it up and smelt it. It smelt like cleaning fluid or nail varnish remover. It was really strong. My friend also had a smell and she said it burnt her nose.
“I didn’t think any more of it and Tallulah went off to school on the Monday. When I picked her up she was quite poorly.
“She was off for the rest of the week with an ulcer and a sore throat.
“Luckily, Tallulah only had one mouthful. She was quite thirsty so I’m just relieved she didn’t gulp it all down.”
Debbie said she has always trusted Robinsons and Britvic but will never buy Fruit Shoot again.
She said she called the customer service line and advisors told her they would send a courier to collect the bottle.
The mother of three added: “I didn’t even dare taste it. It was disgusting. I’m really worried about what was in it.
“I would never but them again. It has really scared me.”
Britvic said they launched an investigation on January 4 after Sammi sent them the Fruit Shoot sample.
They said: “We can confirm that the unpleasant taste and smell is the result of mould reacting with the preservative in the product.
“The product in this state is not harmful if consumed, however we appreciate that this was an unpleasant experience for Miss Smith and her daughter.
“This is an industry wide issue, which occurs in very rare instances in uncarbonated soft drinks, which contain fruit juice.
“Fruit Shoot contains fruit juice and, as with any fruit containing soft drink, if exposed to air, there is a possibility of mould growth.”
“We have now been able to confirm the nature of the issue with Miss Smith and express our sincere apologies.”
They agreed to refund Sammi the price of the 48 bottles – £20.
Thurrock Council also confirmed that they received a complaint involving the Fruit Shoot which made Ellie sick on January 8.
A spokesman said: “We subsequently liaised with Ms Smith, the complainant, and we are investigating the matter with the retailer, and the manufacturer together with other environmental health colleagues.
“The results of the of laboratory tests are pending.”