On New Year’s Eve 2011, a Texas company recalled 228,360 lbs. — 114 tons — of spinach because it tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.

That Class I recall — which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration defines as “a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death” — was revealed this week as an item in the FDA enforcement report for February 8.

Credit microbiologist and blogger Phyllis Entis for spotting what she calls a stealth recall, and explaining its significance on her eFoodAlert website.

“I realize that not all recalls are created equal, and that not all recalls require public notification. But I cannot understand the rationale behind NOT publicizing a Class I Hazard recall of a ready-to-eat item of produce that may be contaminated with a potentially lethal pathogen,” Entis wrote.  “Would anyone care to explain this to me?”

The potentially contaminated spinach from Tiro Tres Farms of Eagle Pass, TX was distributed in Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and in Canada in Ontario and Quebec.

FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did not publish public notices of this recall in December or January – and still have not — and the FDA enforcement report did not say whether there were any illnesses linked to the recalled spinach.

According to the enforcement report, Tiro Tres Farms notified its own customers of the recall by letter on Dec. 31, 2011, but the FDA report does not indicate if any of the spinach was sold by retailers.

The recall was of Robert’s S 1 cut leaf “Curly” spinach packed in 30 lb. totes with no specific type of labeling, except for a small sticker label identifying the “pup” container that identified the harvest date and the field in Uvalde, TX. Harvest dates were Nov. 21, 22, 23, 25, 28 and 29, 2011, one month before the recall letter was sent. 

  • Eliavaa

    As a former Recall Branch Chief for the FDA, I can tell you that the number one reason for this kind of thing is political pressure. Members of Congress and the White House use the Recall Office like bargaining chip. If a campaign contributor wants the wording changed from “recall” to something softer like “consumer alert”, the Recall Office hears about it. Loudly. Fortunately, that wording can’t be changed unless the law changes. But other shifty stuff happens like that.
    My first gueess: political pressure.

  • Steve

    When is a recall not a recall (at least with any names attached)?
    Works every time: mix well-financed industry political pressure from the outside with a phalanx of corporate operatives ensconced in our “regulatory” agencies via the revolving door and — VOILA! — consumers remain clueless and powerless…

  • John

    Once the farm notifies their direct customers, it is then THOSE buyers/repackers/distributors who have the burden of notifying THEIR customers, and so on down the line. The farm doesn’t necessarily know who their buyers sell to further down the line, and the buyers’ customer lists are proprietary information. Although, there most certainly should have been a general public Recall Notification on the FDA website. Someone was paid off somewhere. The government is NOT there to protect us, not one bit. They are their to protect the elite and the lobyists/industries. Don’t for even a minute think that any government agency gives a damn about any individual person. We are just consumers, little worker bees living and dieing for the hive.

  • Theresa Kentner

    I haven’t seen this on Canada’s Food Inspection site either. Who would have that kind of clout?

  • Jess C. Rajan, Ph.D.

    The FDA may have received the information on the positive E. coli O157:H7 test result from a marketing program of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) under certain MOUs. As noted in the FDA-AMS MOU 225-72-2009, interagency MOUs may include procedures for sharing “privileged and/or confidential information exempt from public disclosure”:

  • ken

    You all do understand that 30 days after harvest the likelihood of any of those lots of spinach still existing approaches zero. We don’t know from what’s published here that it wasn’t found earlier when a promptly issued recall might have helped but my opinion is there was no illness reported. With that many dates involved I find it unlikely that the recall happened fast enough to prevent any of the product from going past the first distribution point after the problem was identified so my best guess is there was a positive test result that didn’t come in until after the shelf life of the product was past.

  • crs

    Here’s an ongoing recall that showed up in the February 15th Enforcement Report. I have not been able to find it anywhere else.
    1) A CUT ABOVE Taco Cut Shredded Lettuce, 5 lb bags packed 4 per case. Recall # F-0704-2012;
    2) A CUT ABOVE Baby Spinach, 1 lb bags. Recall # F-0705-2012;
    3) A CUT ABOVE Cantaloupe Cubes, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0706-2012;
    4) A CUT ABOVE Carrot Sticks, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0707-2012;
    5) A CUT ABOVE Carrot – Match Sticks, 4 packages of 5 lb bags per case. Recall # F-0708-2012;
    6) A CUT ABOVE Celery Sticks, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0709-2012;
    7) A CUT ABOVE Cut Broccoli Florets, 3 and 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0710-2012;
    8) A CUT ABOVE Shredded Cabbage – Red, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0711-2012;
    9) A CUT ABOVE Cut Cauliflower Florets, 3 and 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0712-2012;
    10) A CUT ABOVE Shredded Carrots, 1 and 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0713-2012;
    11) A CUT ABOVE Cut Caesar Salad Mix, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0714-2012;
    12) A CUT ABOVE Cut Cole Slaw, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0715-2012;
    13) A CUT ABOVE Cut Regular Lettuce, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0716-2012;
    14) A CUT ABOVE Cut Romaine, 2 lb bags. Recall # F-0717-2012;
    15) A CUT ABOVE Cut Salad Mix, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0718-2012;
    16) A CUT ABOVE Diced Bell Pepper, 3 and 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0719-2012;
    17) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Cucumbers, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0720-2012;
    18) A CUT ABOVE Diced Celery, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0721-2012;
    19) A CUT ABOVE Diced Onion, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0722-2012;
    20) A CUT ABOVE Diced Potato, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0723-2012;
    21) A CUT ABOVE Honeydew Cubes, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0724-2012;
    22) A CUT ABOVE Jicama Sticks, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0725-2012;
    23) A CUT ABOVE Pineapple Bits, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0726-2012;
    24) A CUT ABOVE Shredded Cabbage – Green, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0727-2012;
    25) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Grapefruit, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0728-2012;
    26) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Green Bell Pepper, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0729-2012;
    27) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Radish, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0730-2012;
    28) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Red Apples, 2.8 oz and 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0731-2012;
    29) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Red Onions, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0732-2012;
    30) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Yellow Onions, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0733-2012;
    31) A CUT ABOVE Watermelon Cubes, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0734-2012;
    32) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Oranges, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0735-2012;
    33) A CUT ABOVE Sliced Carrots, 5 lb bags. Recall # F-0736-2012
    USE BY 12 13 thru 12 26
    Nicho Produce Co., Inc., Edinburg, TX, by letter dated December 9, 2011 and December 19, 2011. FDA initiated recall is ongoing.
    The product has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
    9,829.5 pieces