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UPDATED: General Mills recalls flour because of E. coli outbreak

UPDATE 9:43 p.m. EDT: The Food and Drug Administration posted the General Mills recall notice Tuesday evening. It includes product photos for easy location of label codes that identify the recalled products.

General Mills Inc. has initiated a nationwide recall of three brands of flour, totaling about 10 million pounds, in response to a 20-state E. coli outbreak that has sickened 38 people.

Although government officials have reportedly been investigating the outbreak, no state or federal agencies had released any information about it at the point Tuesday when the Minneapolis-based company announced the recall.

These are three of several varieties and brands of flour recalled by General Mills in relation to a multi-state outbreak of E. coli.

These are three of several varieties and brands of flour recalled by General Mills in relation to a multi-state outbreak of E. coli.

“State and federal authorities have been researching 38 occurrences of illnesses across 20 states related to a specific type of E. coli O121, between Dec.21, 2015, and May 3, 2016,” according to a news release from General Mills.

“While attempting to track the cause of the illness, CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that approximately half of the individuals reported making something homemade with flour at some point prior to becoming ill. Some reported using a General Mills brand of flour.”

The recall includes six SKUs (stock keeping units or UPC codes) of Gold Medal branded flour, two SKU’s of Signature Kitchens branded flour and one SKU of Gold Medal Wondra branded flour.

Retailers that received shipments of the recalled flour include Safeway, Albertsons, Jewel, Shaws, Vons, United, Randalls, and Acme.

“To date, E. coli O121 has not been found in any General Mills flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility, and the company has not been contacted directly by any consumer reporting confirmed illnesses related to these products,” according to the news release.

“As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour,” Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills Baking division, said in the release.

Some of the outbreak victims may have eaten raw dough or batter. Nordlie said in the news release and a separate blog posting that no one, especially young children, should ever eat raw dough or batter because of potential pathogens.

“Consumers are reminded to not consume any raw products made with flour. Flour is an ingredient that comes from milling wheat, something grown outdoors that carries with it risks of bacteria which are rendered harmless by baking, frying or boiling,” according to the news release.

“Consumers are reminded to wash their hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw dough products or flour, and to never eat raw dough or batter.”

The recalled flour can be identified by the following label information:

  • 13.5-ounce Gold Medal Wondra — Package UPC 000-16000-18980; Better if Used by Dates 25FEB2017 thru 30MAR2017
  • 2-pound Gold Medal All Purpose Flour — Package UPC 000-16000-10710; Better if Used by Dates 25MAY2017KC thru 03JUN2017K
  • 5-pound Gold Medal All Purpose Flour — Package UPC 000-16000-10610; Better if Used by Dates 25MAY2017KC, 27MAY2017KC thru 31MAY2017KC, 01JUN2017KC, 03JUN2017KC thru 05JUN2017KC, 11JUN2017KC thru 14JUN2017KC
  • 10-pound Gold Medal All Purpose Flour — Package UPC 000-16000-10410; Better if Used by Dates 02JUN2017KC,03JUN2017KC
  • 10-pound Gold Medal All Purpose Flour Banded Pack — Package UPC 000-16000-10410; Better if Used by Dates 03JUN2017KC, 04JUN2017KC, 05JUN2017KC
  • 5-pound Gold Medal Unbleached Flour — Package UPC 000-16000-19610; Better if Used by Dates 25MAY2017KC, 27MAY2017KC, 03JUN2017KC, 04JUN2017KC
  • 5-pound Signature Kitchens All Purpose Flour Enriched Bleached — Package UPC 000-21130-53001; Better if Used by Dates BB MAY 28 2017
  • 5-pound Signature Kitchens Unbleached Flour All Purpose Enriched —Package UPC 000-21130-53022; Better if Used by Dates BB MAY 27 2017
  • 2-pound Gold Medal Self Rising Flour — Package UPC 000-16000-11710; Better if Used by Dates 23AUG2016KC

General Mills has a web page and hotline for consumers: 800-230-8103.

E. coli O121 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Seniors, the very young, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness.

“Any consumers concerned about an illness should contact a physician. Anyone diagnosed by a physician as having an illness related to E. coli O121 is also urged to contact state and local public health authorities,” according to the General Mills news release.

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