In an expanded recall notice for flour sold by Aldi, the grocery chain’ supplier is reminding consumers that the baking staple is made from raw grain and therefore inherently dangerous.
There is no word yet about whether any other flour made at an ADM Milling Co. factory could be contaminated with E. coli, which has been found in recalled Baker’s Corner flour and in lab samples from patients in an eight-state outbreak.
ADM Milling Co. is based in Overland Park, KS, but is a wholly owned subsidiary of multi-national Archer Daniels Midland Co. The company published its expanded recall notice last week, but the Food and Drug Administration just posted it today. It covers all lot numbers and date codes of Baker’s Corner all purpose flour in 5-pound bags in “select markets.”
State and federal officials have traced E. coli infections to the implicated flour. Rhode Island investigators found the outbreak strain of E. coli in an unopened package of Baker’s Corner flour at a restaurant where outbreak victims reported eating.
The recall initially included only two lots of certain date codes of the Baker’s Corner flour distributed to Aldi stores in 11 states. Some of the 17 confirmed outbreak patients do not live in any of those states.
In its May 24 recall expansion, ADM Million Co. announced it is recalling all 5-pound bags of Baker’s Corner flour packaged for Aldi stores in “select markets.”
“The food source of the E.coli strain for all cases remains under investigation, but out of an abundance of caution, ADM is expanding its previous recall notice of only two specific lots to include all ‘Baker’s Corner All Purpose
Flour’ 5-pound bags currently in distribution that were manufactured for ALDI at ADM’s flour mill in Buffalo, NY,” according to the company’s expanded recall posted today by the FDA.
The recall includes 5-pound bags Baker’s Corner flour distributed Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia.
Neither the company nor the FDA have released any information about whether ADM Milling Co. produced or packaged any other flour — or other products containing it — for Aldi or other customers during the time that it made the recalled flour.
“ADM Milling is conducting an in-depth investigation to determine the cause of the contamination and is working closely with regulators throughout this process,” according to the recall notice.
“ADM reminds customers and consumers that flour is not ready-to-eat and must be thoroughly cooked before eating to prevent illness from possible bacteria in the flour. Do not eat or play with raw dough, and wash hands, utensils and surfaces after handling.”
For days now Rhode Island officials, as well as the FDA and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been warning consumers, restaurant operators and others to check their homes and businesses for the recalled flour. Any unused portions of the recalled flour should be thrown away or returned to Aldi.
There is a danger of cross-contamination with anything used to store the recalled flour and any utensils, hard surfaces or other things that have come into contact with the flour. All such items should be throughly washed and sanitized, according to public health officials.
The first person confirmed with an infection from the outbreak strain of E. coli became ill on Dec. 11, 2018. The outbreak patients, who are spread across eight states, range in age from 7 to 86 years old. No confirmed deaths had been reported to the CDC as of the posting of the outbreak notice today. The most recent patient became ill on April 18. Additional patients could be identified because of a lag time of a few weeks between when a person becomes sick and when confirmed laboratory reports are made available to the CDC.
“Of seven people who were interviewed, four reported eating, licking, or tasting raw, homemade dough or batter. Two people with detailed information reported eating raw dough or batter made with flour or baking mixes from Aldi,” according to the CDC.
“Investigators with the Rhode Island Department of Health collected records and flour samples at a bakery where an ill person reported eating raw dough. Records indicated that the bakery used Baker’s Corner All Purpose Flour from Aldi. The outbreak strain was isolated from an unopened bag of Baker’s Corner All Purpose Flour collected at the bakery.”
The outbreak patients mostly live in New England, but California and Missouri have both reported one patient each. Ohio has reported five patients, as have New York. Other states with confirmed outbreak patients are: Pennsylvania with two, and Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island each with one patient.
The investigation is ongoing. FDA is working to determine whether other brands or lots of flour may be potentially contaminated and need to be recalled.
Information about E. coli infections
Anyone who has eaten or handled any of the suspect flour and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen. Specific tests are required to diagnose E. coli infections, which have symptoms that can mimic other illnesses and cause difficulties during diagnosis and treatment.
The symptoms of Shiga toxin-producing (STEC) E. coli infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps and bloody diarrhea. If there is fever, it is usually less than 101 degrees F. Most people get better within a week.
About 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with E. coli infections develop a potentially life-threatening form of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
Symptoms of HUS include fever, abdominal pain, feeling very tired, decreased frequency of urination, small unexplained bruises or bleeding, and pallor. Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die. People who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working. They may also develop other serious problems such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and neurologic problems.
This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)