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Consumers Blame Chobani Yogurt for Illnesses; Evidence Lacking

At least 89 people have complained of illness to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration following the market withdrawal and eventual recall of Chobani yogurt due to a mold that caused cups to bloat and sour before their expiration date.

The complainants reported becoming ill after eating the recalled yogurt.

Some have called or written into Food Safety News describing episodes of vomiting and nausea after eating yogurt that appeared “fizzy” or “carbonated.” One caller reported having a “very upset stomach” and that they “couldn’t keep anything down” for several days.

But as the allegations of illness file in, experts have begun looking into whether the mold, Mucor circinelloides, could be the source of foodborne illness. The early analysis says it’s not.

Food safety experts contacted by Food Safety News on Tuesday largely said they did not know of any historical evidence describing the mold as a foodborne pathogen, but they were not experts on the topic and declined further comment.

The mold does not produce a toxin that would cause a vomiting response, according to Cornell University food science professor Randy Worobo, Ph.D., who spoke about the mold with the Huffington Post.

It’s far too early to say whether the yogurt actually caused any illnesses, Worobo said. It is not clear if any of the 89 complaints reported by the FDA have involved tests for any known foodborne pathogens.

Proving a connection between a certain food product and an illness is often problematic unless the sickened individual provides a stool sample that can be tested for pathogens and those same pathogens are found in samples of the suspected food, said food safety attorney Bill Marler. (His law firm, Marler Clark, underwrites Food Safety News.)

Knowing the exact pathogen sickening a patient can help give clues as to what food source might have sickened them.

“Lots of things can make you ill, and without knowing the bacteria or virus that made you sick, it’s difficult to pinpoint the food source because the incubation period could be days or weeks depending on the pathogen,” Marler said.

Even though the reported illnesses were not likely caused by the mold, Worobo suggested it might be possible that the yogurt contained another foodborne pathogen responsible for sickening those who reported illness.

Or, he said, the sour, fizzy yogurt could just be causing a gag reflex.

© Food Safety News
  • flameforjustice

    If in doubt throw it out.

  • flameforjustice

    If it doesn’t look,smell and taste the way it usually does don’t eat it.

  • flameforjustice

    if I saw yogurt container bubbling like the one in the above picture there is no way that I would eat that.

  • David K. Park

    I think we, in the scientific community have to question, how mold is a gas-producing microbial contaminant. From the results that have been publically available to date, there seems to be contradictory evidence as to what the yogurt contamination, in this situation, “actually is”. If there were gross under-pasteurization, or leaking seals, I would expect more than “just mold” as contamination issue resident in the product.
    The manufacturer claims that “only mold” has been found in their product. I find that difficult to reconcile “scientifically”. If there are truly gas-producers in the product, which appears likely based upon consumer reports about packaging “bloating”, more than mold is involved as a product contaminant. The good news is that refrigeration plays a big part in suppressing many other potential pathogens that cause human illness and opportunities for growth and toxin production in yogurt products.
    However, my problem is that no one seems to be tackling the science vs. the claims by the manufacturer in downplaying the public health concern. If everything, including “the kitchen sink” is involved in this yogurt spoilage, beyond mold, then there is an increased chance that consumer reaction to the product if opened, observed and / or consumed will have consequences that the manufacturer, has to date, been unwilling to confront. In addition, there are additional consumer risks when mold growth alters the acidification levels of the product that in the past have caused public health concerns and should be investigated.

    • Janet Murray

      Excellent point.

    • Rhonda

      I had a full body breakout of hives that normal allergy meds and prednisone would not touch. I also had diarrhea and headaches. This was after one bite, realizing it tasted funny and throwing it out! I was misserable until we found meds that would control the hives. This occurred 6 days after one bite. Ugh… and yes, molds ingested or inhaled can cause this!

  • Boo to Chobani

    My 6 year old ate it and got so sick. He didn’t notice an odd taste. When I opened the yogurt the same evening, some were bubbling and completely fizzing, Others looked a little off and smelled a little off. I tasted it and it didn’t seem right, but wasn’t completely carbonated either. I’m assuming that when my kid ate it, it was already contaminated, but not as obvious as some of the others. I already complained to Chobani- it was absolutely horrible for him. His first day of school was ruined and he was in so much pain.