Federal officials are working with a producer to recall an undisclosed amount of sugar because of contamination with bits of metal, but they say they can’t reveal either the sugar company or the food producers that received the sugar. ag-gag-408x250The situation has already caused at least two secondary recalls of consumer food products — almost 1,000 tons of P.F. Chang’s frozen entrées sold nationwide and 30 bakery products sold at Weis Markets. “The sugar supplier contacted the FDA on July 15 about the problem,” a spokeswoman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. ConAgra Foods, which produced the recalled P.F. Chang’s branded entrées, reported in its recall notice that one of its employees discovered metal bits on July 1 while dispensing sugar for sauce formulation at a production plant in Russellville, AR. ConAgra issued a small recall July 6 and expanded it to almost 200,000 pounds of frozen entrees July 15. In its July 22 recall notice, the Pennsylvania-based retailer Weis Markets referenced a recall by its sugar supplier. Weis operates more than 160 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey and West Virginia. “This voluntary action is being taken due to our supplier’s recall of the sugar ingredient,” according to the Weis Markets recall notice on FDA’s website. Both Weis Markets and ConAgra reported that FDA was aware of and assisting with their recalls. Neither company identified the sugar supplier. FDA has not published any information of its own regarding the sugar recall, citing federal law on corporate confidentiality. “FDA is working with a sugar producer on the voluntary recall issued by the company,” according to a statement the agency provided to Food Safety News on Tuesday. “We are still gathering information and working to identify other parts of the relevant supply chain and facilitate recalls where necessary. However, FDA is prohibited by law from releasing publicly certain information about supply chains, which may constitute confidential commercial information.” The agency did not answer questions regarding:

  • When the sugar producer began recalling its product;
  • What volume of sugar is under recall;
  • What states the sugar was distributed to, or
  • What percentage of the sugar supplier’s customers have initiated recalls of consumer products.

FDA does not have a specific timeline for such situations, with its recall policy merely calling for actions to be taken in timely manner. “In general, firms initiating a recall should promptly identify and notify the consignees who may have received the affected product,” according to FDA’s Tuesday statement. “If the depth of the recall is beyond the direct consignees, then the consignees should be instructed by the recalling firm to contact sub-accounts that may have received the product. “FDA conducts audit checks on recalls and follows up with firms to ensure that recalls happen when necessary.” The metal fragments found in the sugar range in size between 2 and 9 millimeters in diameter and are curled, malleable and shiny, according to Weis Markets and ConAgra Foods. No illnesses or injuries had been reported to ConAgra or Weis Markets as of the posting of their recall notices. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)