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Salmonella Found Inside Michigan Soy Flour Plant

A Michigan organic soy flour maker that appeared to be caught up in the national recall of hydrolyzed vegetable protein from a North Las Vegas food processing plant earlier this year instead had problems of its own.

A June 24 warning letter to Thumb Oilseed Producers’ Cooperative from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says Salmonella senftenberg was found inside the soy grit and soy flour manufacturing facility located in Ubly, MI.

FDA says S. senftenberg is “a poisonous or deleterious substance.”

As it turns out, Thumb Oilseed was nearing the end of its own FDA inspection Feb. 25 when it recalled soybean grits and flour for possible Salmonella contamination.

A week later, on March 4, federal food safety officials announced the recall of an eventual 177 raw and ready-to-eat products containing HVP from Basic Food Flavors in Nevada.   Granola bars made with Thumb Oilseed soy grits and flour appeared to be included in the HVP recall.

Salmonella Tennessee, however, was found inside Basic Food Flavors and the recently released warning letter discloses that Thumb Oilseed’s problem is with Salmonella senftenberg.

FDA said it inspected the Michigan flour maker from Jan. 28 through Feb. 23, taking environmental samples from various locations inside the facility and from finished products.  

Tests were positive for Salmonella from 43 areas inside the plant, and all were for S. senftenberg.  “The discovery of an indistinguishable S. senftenberg serotype pattern from multiple locations within your manufacturing facility indicates Salmonella may have become established in a niche environment in your facility,” the FDA letter said.

FDA said positive results with the same PFGE pattern were found in finished organic soy flour and on non-food contact surfaces like the processing room floor and on a forklift wheel.

Thumb Oilseed should provide its decontamination plan, ongoing environmental monitoring plan, and revised sanitation standard operating procedures to FDA, the letter said.

“Appropriate control of Salmonella in a good processing environment requires expert knowledge of the unique characteristics of the organism,” FDA wrote.  “It is essential to identify the areas of the food processing plant where this organism is able to grow and survive (niche areas) and to take such corrective actions as necessary to eradicate the organism by rendering these areas unable to support the grow and survival of the organism.”

FDA asked the Michigan company to respond within 15 business days.

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