On Wednesday, Nestle USA released a press statement confirming the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in two samples of its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough. The contaminated samples, which were made at a Danville, Virginia factory, were found after Nestle implemented scrupulous new safety techniques following a nationwide E. coli outbreak in the spring of 2009.
Although the cookie dough tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, Nestle said the finished product never left the factory or entered the food supply chain, and none was shipped to customers. Therefore, the press release says, “product currently on store shelves displaying the ‘New Batch’ sticker is not affected, and no product is being recalled.”
Nestle was able to catch the tainted product before it hit stores in part because of its improved testing protocol. After the 2009 outbreak, which sickened 72 people in 31 states, Nestle adopted a “best-in-class” safety policy, testing ingredients before they enter the facility and again before the finished product is shipped to customers.
On Monday, July 11, Nestle informed the FDA of the E. coli-contaminated product, and together the two agencies are currently working to pinpoint the source of the latest contamination.
To ensure continued safety, Nestle said the production plant in Danville would be shut down for two weeks while it changes its recipe and production process.
One change Nestle plans to make is to heat-treat all flour used in the Toll House cookie dough. This process, which Nestle began using Wednesday, will result in a temporary suspension of production. However, production with the new ingredient will begin the week of January 25, and the product will appear on grocery store shelves in early March.
“Consistent with our quality standards for Nestle Toll House cookie dough, this change will only further enhance the safety of our products,” said Paul Bakus, General Manager of Nestle USA, in a prepared statement. “Maintaining high quality food standards and ensuring the safety of our products and consumers continues to be our highest priority.”
Nestle did not respond to an inquiry by Food Safety News before publication time