WASHINGTON, May 22, 2002 -- Following at least six deaths from choking, the Food and Drug Administration today seized all New Choice Food mini-gel candies at the firm's facility in Irwindale, California.
"The FDA has had this product seized so that these choking hazards will not be distributed to the public", said FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Lester Crawford. "They pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. consumers."
The company, which has refused to recall the candy, denied the FDA's claims and said it would file a court challenge.
The candies are brightly colored and are made of thick fruit-flavored gel that users suck out of cups. Unlike most gel products, the candies do not dissolve when placed in the mouth. Paramedics have said the substance gets so sticky that they have been unable to dislodge it from the throats of choking children.
The candies contain the ingredient "konjac" (also known as conjac, konnyaku, yam flour, or glucomannan). The FDA and staff physiologists from the Consumer Product Safety Commission consider this type of candy to pose a serious choking risk, particularly to infants, children and the elderly.
The candies are sold under the brand names New Choice Mini Fruity Gels, Yummy Choice Fruit Gel Snack, and Sheng Hsiang Jen (Chinese label) Conjac Coconut Jelly in the following flavors: apple, grape, taro, lychee, peach, pineapple, mango, orange, lemon, strawberry, and as "assorted" flavors.
Each gel cup is about the size of a single-serve coffee creamer. The gel cups are sold in 250 gram (8.75 oz) and 300 gram (10.5 oz.) plastic bags or in 1100 gram (38.5 oz.) and 1500 gram (52.5 oz.) plastic jars. Some labels of these products have a warning suggesting that they are a choking hazard, and some labels state that they should not be consumed by children of various ages, ranging from 3 to 6 years of age.
The State of California Food and Drug Branch embargoed a large amount of the product at the Irwindale warehouse.
In August and October 2001, the FDA issued general warnings against consuming mini-cup gel candies that contain the ingredient "konjac." Other firms have voluntarily recalled these gel candies.
Although the agency issued an import alert to address importation of these candies in October 2001, some candies imported prior to the import alert may still be in the US market. These candies are sold under various brand names, distributed by various companies. The FDA continues to investigate and follow-up on this issue.