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.