Following a run of unusual illnesses in Texas, Illinois and North Dakota, Mars Foodservices is recalling all bags and all lot numbers of its Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice products produced in 2013:

  • UNCLE BEN’S INFUSED Rice Roasted Chicken Flavor (5- and 25-pounds)
  • UNCLE BEN’S INFUSED Rice Garlic & Butter Flavor (5-pounds)
  • UNCLE BEN’S INFUSED Rice Mexican Flavor (5- and 25-pounds)
  • UNCLE BEN’S INFUSED Rice Pilaf (5-pounds)
  • UNCLE BEN’S INFUSED Rice Saffron Flavor (5-pounds)
  • UNCLE BEN’S INFUSED Rice Cheese Flavor (5-pounds)
  • UNCLE BEN’S INFUSED Rice Spanish Flavor (25-pounds)

These products are sold to food service companies that typically distribute to restaurants, schools, hospitals and other commercial establishments. However, the products may be available over the Internet and at warehouse-type retailers. FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local officials have been investigating a cluster of illnesses associated with Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Mexican Flavor sold in 5- and 25-pound bags. On Feb. 7, 2014, FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network (CORE) was notified of a cluster of illnesses at three public schools in Katy, TX. Thirty-four students and four teachers experienced burning, itching rashes, headaches and nausea for 30 to 90 minutes, before the symptoms went away. Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Mexican Flavor with the lot number 351EKGRV01, made by Mars Foodservices of Greenville, MS, was the common food item eaten by ill students. On Dec. 4, 2013, the Illinois Department of Public Health notified CDC of 25 children with similar skin reactions following a school lunch that served an Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice product. Those illnesses prompted an earlier recall. FDA tested rice left over from the Illinois school lunch and found it contained high levels of niacin, or vitamin B3. Overexposure to niacin can lead to skin reactions such as red, itching, dry skin. Very large doses of niacin can cause indigestion and nausea, according to an FDA spokesperson. Investigators are still working to determine if niacin was the cause of the Texas illnesses as well. “It appears that the reaction may be related to an excessive amount of niacin enrichment of the product,” an Uncle Ben’s spokesperson said to Food Safety News in an emailed statement. “Tests of samples of the product involved in the December incident indicated a higher than normal amount of niacin in the product. Enrichment of rice with niacin is required under federal and state standards.” North Dakota reported a similar incident that occurred on Oct. 30, 2013. Three children in a daycare and one college student experienced flushing reactions 45 minutes after consuming an Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice product.