FDA public health alert

A public health alert posted today by the FDA warns consumers about Salmonella found in another tahini product. The implicated company, Soom Foods, had not initiated a recall at the time of the FDA alert, according to the agency.

Mid-afternoon today a spokesperson for Philadelphia-based Soom Foods told Food Safety News that the company was not aware of the alert regarding its 1-ounce packets of Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread. She said company officials would check into the situation. The company has already recalled some of its tahini products in relation to a Salmonella Concord outbreak identified in late 2018.

While the product sample behind today’s public health alert is contaminated with Salmonella Tennessee, the Food and Drug Administration is concerned the product could infect people. There is also concern that consumers may have the product in their homes. The FDA found the Salmonella Tennessee in the tahini packets while investigating the Salmonella Concord outbreak.

“Soom Foods was notified of the Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread product testing positive for Salmonella Tennessee but has not yet acted to protect public health by recalling the product. These particular products may have been distributed by various retailers as samples,” according to the FDA public health alert.

“Retailers should not sell or give away this product and should discard it. … “Currently, the FDA is not aware of any illnesses related to consumption of these individually-packed halva spreads.”

The FDA alert says consumers and retailers can identify the implicated tahini spread by looking for the following package details:

  • Product name — Soom Foods Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread;
  • Individually packaged in 1-ounce (30 ML) pouches or packets;
  • Stamped with lot number of “67333D” on the bottom; and
  • Packages are purple laminated paper packets with a tear-away tab on one end.

Tahini products packed under five brands have been recalled in the U.S. because a sample tested positive for a strain of Salmonella Concord that had infected people. States with cases are Hawaii, Michigan, and New York.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised consumers not to eat Achva, Achdut, Soom, S&F, Pepperwood, and Baron’s brand tahini. The expiration dates it gave, ranging from April 7, 2020, to May 21, 2020, differed by one year from those given Israeli officials, who reported infections in their country. Canadian officials also have reported problems with tahini products. (See previous coverage below.)

Additional information for consumers

Food that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria usually does not look, smell or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention.

Anyone who has eaten any of the implicated products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized.

Older adults, children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

It is possible for people to be infected and not get sick or show any symptoms. They are still be able to spread the infection to others.

For previous coverage of the outbreak and recalls, please see:

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