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Tempeh Starter Linked to Outbreak Recalled

A Rockville, MD company is recalling its Tempeh Starter Yeast and Super Starter Yeast because the products may be contaminated with Salmonella.

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The tempeh starter, a fungal culture imported from Indonesia and sold over the Internet, has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Paratyphi B infection that has sickened 88 people, 64 of them residents of Buncombe County, NC, where tempeh made with the contaminated starter yeast is known to have been sold.

Onset of the most recent illness was May 8. 

Indonesianfoodmart.com and its Tempeh Online supplied the starter yeast to Smiling Hara Tempeh, which earlier had to recall all of its soybean tempeh made between January 11 and April 11 after outbreak victims said they had eaten the product. Testing by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services showed the presence of the outbreak strain of Salmonella in samples of the product.

The starter yeast being recalled is packaged in 30 gm, 50 gm, 250 gm, and 1,000 gm sizes in sealed, clear, plastic marked with a small computer-printed label.

The Salmonella Paratyphi B associated with the North Carolina outbreak causes a non-typhoidal illness with symptoms that can be severe, although not as severe as typhoidal strains of the bacteria. The Buncombe County Department of Health says that while the outbreak began through consumption of or direct contact with contaminated tempeh, subsequent cases have been secondary, that is, transmitted person-to-person.

Tempeh is a raw, fermented bean product typically marketed as a meat substitute for vegetarians. Smiling Hara’s website says that its unpasteurized product is a “raw food and is intended to be cooked. In the heating process some of the probiotics and digestive enzymes will die, however, some will be retained an the mushroom qualities remain in full.” The company says there is a “big difference” between its tempeh and pasteurized tempeh found in the refrigerated sections of grocery stores.

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