An Oregon company apparently donated more than 11 tons of chia seeds to a food bank in the Feeding America network after it discovered there was “evidence of rodent activity” in its stock.

The Oregon Food Bank Network initiated a recall yesterday of the 22,201 pounds of chia seeds donated by Live Local Organic of Milwaukie, OR. Food bank officials are urging the public to immediately discard any of the chia seeds that have not been used.

The recall notice on the food bank’s website reports no confirmed illnesses associated with the chia seeds as of March 12. A consumer complaint about foreign matter in the chia seeds led to the discovery of rodent droppings, which often carry pathogens that can cause serious illnesses in humans.

Food banks and pantries in Oregon and Clark County, WA, received the chia seeds. The recall includes all chia seeds distributed between Nov. 1, 2017, and March 9 this year. The recalled chia seeds are packaged in 1-pound plastic poly film bags with a twist-type closure or a resealable pouch. The package labels have a use-by date of Nov. 18 this year.

“The issue was discovered through investigation of a customer complaint regarding foreign material,” according to the recall notice on the regional food bank’s website.

“Product which was still in inventory at Oregon Food Bank was determined to contain rodent droppings. Subsequent investigation indicates the chia seeds were observed to have evidence of rodent activity by the donor, Live Local Organic of Milwaukie, Oregon. The recall was initiated after it was determined all chia seeds received in this donation might be at risk.”

Advice for consumers
Anyone who has consumed any of the chia seeds and developed symptoms of food poisoning should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possibility that they consumed rodent droppings.

Some foodborne illnesses cause symptoms within a few hours of exposure, others may not cause symptoms for up to 70 days after exposure. Most foodborne illnesses are associated with abdominal cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, vomiting, muscle aches or fever.

Certain groups of people are more likely to develop serious infections with life-threatening complications. High risk groups include children younger than 5, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, diabetics and HIV patients.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)