The world giant Kellogg Company is downplaying the role of a summer food safety-related recall in a current shortage of one of its more popular products.

Closures of Kellogg’s Eggo waffle plant in Atlanta have resulted in a nationwide shortage of the frozen breakfast food, leaving some parents scrambling for breakfast ideas for their kids. This week’s announcement the company is rationing its Eggo waffles is just the latest in a string of stumbles for one of the world’s largest food companies.

waffles-featured.jpgBack in September, Battle Creek, MI-based Kellogg announced a recall of 4,500 cases of its Eggo Cinnamon Toast Waffles and Eggo Toaster Swirlz after tests performed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture found Listeria monocytogenes in samples of the company’s buttermilk waffles.

Kellogg closed the plant for a thorough cleaning but was forced to close it again after heavy rain falls in northern Georgia flooded the plant. 

Last week, Kellogg announced it would begin rationing the waffles in an effort to get its product to areas where it is in greatest demand.  In an email, company spokesperson Kris Charles attributed the shortage to “a confluence of events” including the floods of September and mechanical problems at another plant in Rossville, Tenn.

There has been no mention of the Listeria-related recall back in September. 

Despite solid third quarter sales in October, Kellogg has had a number of stumbles this year. The company, which reported $13 billion in sales in 2008, was the target of criticism for its lack of vigilance in its use of ingredients from the Salmonella-laced Peanut Corporation of America.

Kellogg had to recall 30 brands and products as part of the largest food recall in American history.  In October, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera threatened legal action against Kellogg for labeling its sugary Cocoa Krispies cereal with the claim “Now helps support your child’s immunity”.  Kellogg quickly relented and agreed to withdraw the claim, although they insisted the timing, with the rise of the threat of the H1N1 pandemic, was “purely coincidental”. 

Kellogg is also being sued by Annex Holdings, the former owners of Wholesome & Hearty Food Co., which makes the popular vegetarian Gardenburger meat-alternative.  Kellogg purchased the company in November 2007, but seven months later withdrew Gardenburger products from the market, citing “facility improvements” to its Clearfield, Utah, plant as the reason but the company also withheld the $10 million escrow owed to the former owners. 

According to an Annex statement released Oct. 28, Kellogg has “never disclosed exactly what was wrong with the withdrawn Gardenburger products nor has it identified the specific construction conditions that led to the withdrawal.”

Annex accused Kellogg of trying to “‘pass the buck’ for its plant sanitation issues” while claiming, under its own tenure, Gardenburger “had an unblemished history of quality and safety, including passing numerous third-party and governmental sanitation audits, lending credence to the notion that consumer safety is of greater concern to smaller companies such as WHF than to the larger Kellogg conglomerate.