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Possible illnesses reported in connection with sunflower seeds

As more snacks and granola products are being recalled every day because of possible Listeria contamination of sunflower kernels, one recalling company reports two illnesses are being investigated in relation to its products.

First Source of Tonawanda, NY, which packages and distributes candy and specialty foods nationwide for national brands such as Ghirardelli, Godiva and Jelly Belly and store brands for Tops, Wegmans, Bed Bath and Beyond, 7-Eleven and other retailers, expanded its May 23 recall in recent days to include 16 more products because they include sunflower kernels supplied by SunOpta Inc.

sunflower-seeds-with-recall-button“Currently, there are two possible illnesses being investigated in connection with this recall,” according to the June 3 expanded recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website.

“The potential for contamination was noted after we received notification from our sunflower kernel supplier SunOpta pertaining to positive Listeria monocytogenes results.”

A spokeswoman with FDA said Monday that First Source had been notified by its customers of the two illnesses and subsequently notified SunOpta officials.

First Source officials did not respond to requests for comment.

“At this time, I would reiterate what we announced last week — no illnesses related to the consumption of these products have been have been confirmed,” SunOpta spokesman Rob Litt said Monday.

Exactly who is investigating the illnesses referenced in the First Source recall notice is unclear, but a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the federal agency is not involved. Generally, the CDC does not get involved in outbreak investigations unless there are victims in more than one state.

A woman answering the phone Monday at the New York State Health Department said the state’s Department of Agriculture & Markets is investigating the illnesses possibly linked to the First Source products. However, a spokeswoman for the ag department said it does not investigate foodborne illnesses.

Officials with the New York State Health Department said they would check into the situation, but had not provided any additional information as of 11 p.m. EDT Tuesday.

More than three dozen companies, including retailers such as HyVee and snack giant Hershey’s, are currently in effect because of the sunflower kernels from SunOpta. Recalls posted with the FDA can be found here.

Some companies have not posted the recalls with the Food and Drug Administration, instead using online news release services such as PRNewsWire.comBusinessWire.com or their own corporate websites.

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