Federal officials declared yesterday afternoon that the Salmonella Agbeni outbreak associated with Duncan Hines cake mixes appears to be over. However, the best-by dates on recalled mixes don’t hit until March, so a continuing threat exists.

The outbreak and related recall illustrates how foods with long shelf lives can cause extra concern for public health officials because consumers may not be aware that products in their homes could be dangerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Food and Drug Administration.

“Do not bake with or eat recalled Duncan Hines cake mix, or eat cake prepared with recalled mix. Throw the mix away or return it to the store for a refund,” the CDC advised in its final outbreak report on Jan. 14.

“Contact a healthcare provider if you think you got sick from eating recalled cake mix. Retailers should not sell or serve recalled Duncan Hines cake mixes. In general, CDC advises against eating any raw dough or batter, whether homemade or from a mix. Raw batter can contain germs that could make you sick.”

Seven people across five states were confirmed infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella using whole genome sequencing. Their illnesses began on dates ranging from June 13 to Oct. 5, 2018. The patients were from Florida, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. None of the ill people were hospitalized, and none died.

Officials in Oregon discovered the Salmonella in a Duncan Hines cake mix collected from a retail store in relation to illnesses not included in the outbreak. Based on the Oregon tests, Conagra Brands recalled four flavors of its Duncan Hines cake mix on Nov. 5, 2018. 

Despite the confirmed laboratory test results in Oregon, the CDC’s outbreak update yesterday stopped short of pointing a definitive finger at the recalled cake mixes.

“The outbreak strain of Salmonella was found in Duncan Hines cake mix. However, the outbreak investigation did not produce other information needed to determine whether the cake mix was linked to the Salmonella illnesses,” according to the CDC update.

As of Jan. 14 the FDA had not updated its outbreak investigation notice since Nov. 7, 2018.

Advice 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 CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled 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 a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

Mixes included in the recall are:

 

Product Description & Brand Product UPC Best If Used By Date
(located on top of box)
Duncan Hines Classic White Cake 15.25oz. 644209307500 MAR 7 2019
MAR 8 2019
MAR 9 2019
MAR 10 2019
MAR 12 2019
MAR 13 2019
Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Cake 15.25oz. 644209307494 MAR 9 2019
MAR 10 2019
MAR 12 2019
MAR 13 2019
Duncan Hines Classic Butter Golden Cake 15.25oz. 644209307593 MAR 7 2019
MAR 8 2019
MAR 9 2019
Duncan Hines Signature Confetti Cake 15.25oz. 644209414550 MAR 12 2019
MAR 13 2019

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It is not yet known whether the strain of Salmonella Agbeni that has infected people in at least three states is resistant to antibiotics. But federal food safety officials do know the Duncan Hines cake mix implicated in the outbreak was produced in the United States.

Because of the outbreak, Conagra Foods recalled four flavors of Duncan Hines brand cake mix on Nov. 5. Conagra officials initiated the recall after federal investigators told them Oregon’s public health department found the outbreak strain of Salmonella in a box of Duncan Hines cake mix.

Investigators from the Oregon Health Authority had recently purchased and tested a total of 35 boxes of various flavors of Duncan Hines cake mix in relation to several illnesses reported in their state, a health department spokesman told Food Safety News. None of those samples tested positive for the Salmonella strain found in the Oregon patients. The spokesman said the source of the bacteria that infected those patients remains unknown.

Conagra Foods posted this photo of the Duncan Hines cake mix flavors that are subject to the recall.

However, one of the boxes of cake mix was contaminated with Salmonella Agbeni. As part of their standard procedures, Oregon officials uploaded the Salmonella’s DNA fingerprint to a national database maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During a routine check against known Salmonella strains that have infected people, the CDC found five patients had been infected recently with same Salmonella bacteria found in the cake mix in Oregon.

“CDC is working with state health departments and FDA to determine if these ill people ate cake or raw cake mix produced by Duncan Hines. Antibiotic resistance testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System laboratory is currently underway,” according to the CDC’s outbreak announcement Nov. 7.

The outbreak patients are from Wisconsin, Ohio and Maryland. None of them have required hospitalization, the CDC reported. The first person became ill on June 13. The most recent person to fall ill developed symptoms on Sept. 17. The lab-confirmed patients range in age from 26 to 72 years old.

A spokesperson with the Food and Drug Administration told Food Safety News the manufacturing plant where the recalled Duncan Hines cake mix was produced is in the United States. The FDA’s outbreak investigation announcement Nov. 5 reported the agency was inspecting the manufacturing plant, but did not indicate where the plant is located.

Inspectors from FDA are collecting environmental swab samples from the manufacturing plant. They are also collecting finished product samples for testing.

In the meantime, FDA and CDC officials are urging consumers to check their home kitchens for Duncan Hines cake mixes and compare codes on the boxes to determine whether they are part of the recall. (See chart below for those product codes.)

Conagra reported distributing the Duncan Hines cake mixes to retailers nationwide, as well as some foreign countries. The multinational corporation is offering replacement coupons to people who bought the recalled cake mix.

“These products may be available in grocery stores around the U.S., and consumers should check their labels carefully,” according to Conagra’s recall notice.

Advice 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 CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled 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 a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

The cake mixes subject to the current recall are as follows.

Product Description & Brand

Product UPC

Best If Used By Date (located on top of box)

Duncan Hines Classic White Cake 15.25oz.

644209307500

MAR 7 2019

MAR 8 2019

MAR 9 2019

MAR 10 2019

MAR 12 2019

MAR 13 2019

Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Cake 15.25oz.

644209307494

MAR 9 2019

MAR 10 2019

MAR 12 2019

MAR 13 2019

Duncan Hines Classic Butter Golden Cake 15.25oz.

644209307593

MAR 7 2019

MAR 8 2019

MAR 9 2019

Duncan Hines Signature Confetti Cake 15.25oz.

644209414550

MAR 12 2019

MAR 13 2019

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Federal officials are working with Conagra Brands to investigate Salmonella infections associated with Duncan Hines cake mix. The multinational food giant today recalled some of the mixes because one flavor tested positive for the outbreak strain of the bacteria.

“The FDA is investigating the manufacturing facility that made recalled Duncan Hines cake mixes,” according to an investigation announcement posted tonight by the Food and Drug Administration. “FDA and the CDC informed Conagra Brands that a sample of Duncan Hines Classic White Cake Mix that contained Salmonella Agbeni matched the Salmonella collected from ill persons reported to the CDC. This was determined through Whole Genome Sequencing, a type of DNA analysis.”

Conagra owns the manufacturing facility that produced the Duncan Hines cake mixes. Investigators from the FDA are collecting test samples of products and environmental samples from the equipment and surfaces in the manufacturing plant.

Both FDA and Conagra officials say consumers should not bake with or eat the recalled cake mixes. They also are renewing advice against eating uncooked batter, flour, cake mix powder, or anything containing uncooked flour or eggs.

The Conagra recall notice says it distributed the implicated cake mixes to retailers nationwide in the United States and to “limited” international export markets.

“While it has not been definitively concluded that this product is linked to the outbreak and the investigation is still ongoing, Conagra has decided to voluntarily recall the specific Duncan Hines variety identified, Classic White, and three other varieties — Classic Butter Golden, Signature Confetti and Classic Yellow — made during the same time period out of an abundance of caution,” the recall notice states.

The FDA investigation notice says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received reports of five illnesses. It is likely that additional illnesses will be added to the case count because of the time lag between when a person becomes sick and when the CDC receives confirmed laboratory test results.

Investigators from the CDC are continuing to interview the sick people to determine whether they were exposed to Duncan Hines cake mixes before becoming ill.

Conagra’s recall notice says “several of the individuals reported consuming a cake mix at some point prior to becoming ill, and some may have also consumed these products raw and not baked.”

“Consumers are reminded to wash their hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw batter products, to follow baking instructions, and to never eat raw batter,” Conagra’s notice says. “Consumers who have purchased these items are advised not to consume them and to return them to the store where originally purchased.”

Consumers with questions can call Conagra at 888-299-7646 or visit www.duncanhines.com.

Advice 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 CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled 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 a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

Consumers and retailers can identify the recalled cake mixes by looking for the following labeling information:

Product

UPC number

Best If Used By Date
(located on top of the box)

Duncan Hines Classic White Cake 15.25oz.

644209307500

MAR 7 2019

MAR 8 2019

MAR 9 2019

MAR 10 2019

MAR 12 2019

MAR 13 2019

Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Cake 15.25oz.

644209307494

MAR 9 2019

MAR 10 2019

MAR 12 2019

MAR 13 2019

Duncan Hines Classic Butter Golden Cake 15.25oz.

644209307593

MAR 7 2019

MAR 8 2019

MAR 9 2019

Duncan Hines Signature Confetti Cake 15.25oz.

644209414550

MAR 12 2019

MAR 13 2019

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Pinnacle Foods Canada Corp. issued a nationwide recall Wednesday for Duncan Hines brand cake mix because of possible Salmonella contamination.

recalled Duncan Hines Apple Caramel cake mixOnly one flavor of Duncan Hines cake mix — Apple Caramel — is included in the recall. It was distributed to retailers nationwide in Canada.

“Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below. Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased,” according to the recall notice posted on the website of the Canadian food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

No illnesses had been reported to the company in connection with the recalled cake mix as of Wednesday. The recall was triggered by the company, according to the CFIA notice, but no other details on the possible Salmonella contamination or how it was discovered were included.

Consumers can identify the recalled Duncan Hines Caramel Apple cake mix by looking for the UPC number 6 44209 02223 6 on the 590-gram packages and one of the following “best before” date codes:

  • 17 AL 07
  • 17 AL 08
  • 17 SE 27
  • 17 JN 29

Anyone who has consumed any of the recalled cake mix and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

Food contaminated with Salmonella may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems may contract serious and sometimes deadly infections.

Healthy people may experience short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Long-term complications may include severe arthritis.

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Authorities in Norway are investigating a Salmonella outbreak that has affected nine people.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstituttet) said the patients became ill in January and early February. They are aged from 2 to 91 years old. The agency is investigating with local authorities, the Veterinary Institute (Veterinærinstituttet) and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet).

Five men and four women have been confirmed infected with Salmonella Agbeni. They live in Oslo, Akershus, Buskerud, Rogaland and Vest-Agder. Bacteria with a similar DNA profile has been detected in all nine people, which strongly suggests a common source. Officials are interviewing patients and sampling food leftovers to find the infection vehicle.

Officials from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said such investigations can be complicated and take time with no guarantee the source of infection will be found. They added it was too early to say whether it is a limited outbreak or whether additional patients will be identified.

Every year, 900 to 1,300 cases of salmonellosis are reported to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, with most people infected while traveling abroad.

Salmonella Agbeni was not in the list of the 20 most frequent serovars in confirmed cases of human salmonellosis in Europe meaning there were fewer than 265 infections in 2017, according to data from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Earlier this year, the United States concluded an investigation into a Salmonella Agbeni outbreak associated with Duncan Hines cake mixes. Seven people across five states were infected with the outbreak strain. Conagra Brands recalled four varieties of Duncan Hines cake mix in November 2018.

People can experience symptoms of Salmonella infection between six and 72 hours after exposure and these usually last for three to seven days. They include fever, diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, stomach cramps and loss of appetite. More severe symptoms may occur in young children, older people, pregnant women and people who are immunocompromised.

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Editor’s note: Today Food Safety News takes a look back at the most significant outbreaks in the United States in 2018. As in the past, our year-end coverage is not merely a list of individual stories by individual writers. Generally, significant events are the other way around. Multiple stories by multiple writers are involved in our outbreak coverage. It takes a newsroom — not solo work — to give readers the information they have come to expect from us.


The 21 foodborne illness outbreaks logged on the CDC’s “List of Selected Outbreak Investigations” for 2018 show Salmonella was the pathogen behind the vast majority of multistate events in the past 12 months. But, the list doesn’t include information on the number of intrastate outbreaks.

Investigators from the Centers for Disease and Prevention provide assistance to state officials during outbreaks that are defined by state boundaries, but the federal agency does not include one-state outbreaks in its regular reporting.

Public perception is, understandably, that the number of food-related outbreaks has been increasing in recent history. That perception has spurred people to post theories on social media, placing the blame on everything from terrorist attacks to wimpy immune systems they say have been compromised by too much hand sanitizer and parents who vaccinate their children.  

However, food safety experts say there’s more to the equation than year-to-year numbers and urban myths.

Top scientists at the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dozens of academic research facilities, and food industry organizations all say technological advances are key variables in the outbreak detection formula. Since 2009, the development of new laboratory techniques has fine tuned the detection and identification of pathogens. 

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is largely responsible for those improvements. And, a database that CDC has been building in recent years — and a similar international project — is allowing public health officials to link seemingly unrelated patients from far flung areas by using so-called DNA fingerprints of specific strains of pathogens. 

That technology allows disease detectives to identify outbreaks earlier by enabling scientists to match lab test results from sick people to pathogens isolated from samples of food. Many such food samples are collected as part of routine, random testing programs by the FDA, USDA, and state health officials.

Matthew Wise, deputy chief of CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, told Food Safety News high-tech tools can also help contain outbreaks. 

“The good news is that CDC’s national laboratory network, PulseNet, uses whole genome sequencing more often to identify the most common bacterial culprits and connect the dots between sick people and contaminated food,” Wise said. 

“We are also providing funding to support state and local health departments’ capacity for epidemiologic work. As a result, we may be finding more outbreaks in the early stages so we can work with state and federal partners to identify the source faster and alert people as to what to avoid to prevent getting sick.”

Food companies recalled products in relation to some of the outbreaks. In the case of the Salmonella outbreak traced to kratom products, multiple companies recalled teas, powders, dried and capsulized forms of the plant. The FDA used its authority to mandate a recall when one kratom company refused to pull its product.

Here are the outbreaks — separated by pathogen — on the CDC’s 2018 “List of Selected Outbreak Investigations.” Individual outbreak stories from 2018 and previous years, including announcements and updates, are available on the Food Safety News website by clicking on the “Outbreaks” button on the navigation bar.

E. Coli outbreaks

Romaine lettuce – E. coli O157:H7
Announced by the CDC on April 10, this 36-state outbreak was declared over June 28. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 88 years old.

  • 210 people were confirmed infected
  • 96 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 27 people developed HUS, a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • 5 people died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from March 13 through June 6

Investigators identified romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing area as a common denominator among outbreak victims, but by the time the public was warned to avoid romaine from that area, growers were virtually finished with the season’s harvest. Consequently, no companies recalled any product in relation to the outbreak. In June the FDA and CDC announced the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 had been found in water from an open irrigation canal that runs through the produce fields and past a cattle feed lot that can handle up to 100,000 head at one time. 

Romaine lettuce – E. coli O157:H7
Announced Nov. 20, this 15-state outbreak is ongoing in the United States, according to the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 18. The outbreak crossed international lines, with the Canadian officials reporting patients in five provinces with infections from the outbreak strain of E. coli. Investigations in both countries showed romaine lettuce from the Central Coast region of California as the common denominator among patients. 

The outbreak strain for this outbreak is different from the one that caused the outbreak in the spring. However, it matches the outbreak strain of a U.S./Canada outbreak in November and December 2017.

In the ongoing U.S. outbreak, people in 15 states had been confirmed infected with the outbreak strain as of the CDC’s most recent update on Dec. 18. They range in age from 1 to 84 years old.

  • 59 people have been confirmed infected
  • 23 people have been admitted to hospitals
  • 2 people have developed HUS
  • No deaths have been confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Oct. 5 through Nov. 16

Canadian officials declared the outbreak in their country was over as of Dec. 24. Canadian numbers — 29 people infected; 10 hospitalized; 2 developed HUS; no deaths. Patients’ ages ranged from 2 to 93 years old. Illness onset dates reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada ranged from mid-October to mid-November.

In response to this outbreak, many growers and other entities in the supply chain voluntarily recalled romaine and stopped serving it effective Nov. 20, at the request of the FDA. Harvest has since shifted to the Yuma area and the voluntary moratorium on shipping romaine has been replaced with a voluntary labeling program that reveals the harvest date and region.

Investigators identified the outbreak strain of E. coli behind the current outbreak in California in sediment of an irrigation pond at Adam Brothers Farms Inc. in Santa Barbara County. FDA investigators have said other growers and distributors have not been ruled out as possible sources of contaminated romaine in this outbreak. By the time the E. coli was found on the Adams property, romaine harvest in the region had ended, so no romaine was recalled.

Ground beef – E. coli O26
The announcement of this four-state outbreak and related recalls didn’t come until weeks after the last confirmed victim became sick. The CDC declared the outbreak over as of Sept. 20. Cargill Meat Solutions of Fort Morgan, CO., recalled more than 65 tons of product.

  • 18 people were confirmed infected
  • 6 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person developed HUS
  • 1 person died 
  • Illness onset dates ranged from July 5 through July 25
Listeria outbreaks

Deli Ham
Announced Oct. 4, this two-state outbreak was declared over as of Dec. 18. Patients ages ranged from 70 to 81 years old.

  • 4 people were confirmed infected
  • 4 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates were not reported. Lab specimens were collected from patients between July 8, 2017, through Aug. 11, 2018.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that deli ham products from Johnston County Hams Inc. in Smithfield, NC, was contaminated with the same DNA fingerprint as was isolated from the outbreak patients. The contamination in the ham was discovered during routine inspections by federal regulatory officials who collected samples of deli ham at the production facility in 2016 and in early 2018. 

On Oct. 3, Johnston County Hams Inc. recalled ready-to-eat deli ham products that were produced between April 3, 2017, and Oct. 2, 2018

Pork products
Announced Nov. 21, this four-state outbreak has not yet been declared over. Patients ranged in age from 35 to 84 years old. It can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria monocytogenes for symptoms of infection to develop. Once diagnosed, it can take another two to 10 weeks for confirmed test results to be added to the CDC’s case count.

  • 4 people were confirmed infected
  • 4 people were admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths have been confirmed 
  • Illness onset dates were not reported. Lab specimens were collected from patients between July 1, 2017, and Oct. 24, 2018.

A day before the outbreak announcement from the CDC, a company called 165368 C. Corp. and doing business as Long Phung Food Products recalled “Vietnamese Style” pork products made from May 21 through Nov. 16 this year. 

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reported it received notification of a cluster of listeriosis patients on Oct. 22 and began working with the CDC to determine the source of the pathogen. On Nov. 19, whole genome sequencing of investigative samples collected from Long Phung Foods Establishment M13561 showed a match with the samples from ill people.

Cyclospora outbreaks

This year marked the first time the Cyclospora parasite was found in fresh produce grown in the United States.

Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable-dip trays
Announced June 15, this four-state outbreak was declared over Sept. 5. Patients ranged in age from 13 to 79 years old.

  • 250 people confirmed infected
  • 8 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from May 14 through June 20

Epidemiologic evidence showed pre-packaged Fresh Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable trays containing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dill dip were the likely vehicle of this outbreak. On June 15, Del Monte Fresh Produce recalled packaged vegetable trays of pre-cut fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots and dill dip. It was not possible to determine if an individual component of the vegetable trays was the likely vehicle of infection, according to the CDC. 

Fresh Express salad mix sold by McDonald’s
Announced July 13, CDC and FDA officials reported this 16-state outbreak was not associated with the Cyclospora parasite infection outbreak linked to the Del Monte vegetable-dip trays. The CDC declared this outbreak over on Sept. 12. Patients ranged in age from 14 to 91 years old.

  • 511 people confirmed sick
  • 24 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from May 20 through July 23

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicated that salads purchased from McDonald’s restaurants were linked to this outbreak. On July 13 McDonald’s voluntarily stopped selling salads at more than 3,000 locations in 14 states.

On July 26, the FDA completed final analysis of an unused package of romaine lettuce and carrot mix distributed to McDonald’s by the Fresh Express. The analysis confirmed the presence of Cyclospora in that sample. The FDA investigation reviewed distribution and supplier information for romaine and carrots but did not identify a single source or point of contamination.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus

Imported crab meat
Announced July 13, this outbreak was declared over as of Sept. 27. Patients ranged in age from 26 to 78 years old.

  • 26 people confirmed infected
  • 9 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from April 1 through July 19

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that crab meat labeled as fresh or precooked and imported from Venezuela was making people sick. State and local health officials collected information from restaurants and grocery stores where ill people reported buying fresh crab meat. The FDA and regulatory officials in Maryland traced back the source of the crab meat and identified multiple Venezuelan suppliers. 

As a result of the outbreak investigation, FDA increased testing of fresh crab meat from Venezuela. FDA testing did not find Vibrio parahaemolyticus in any samples tested, but did find Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. That contaminated crab meat was not allowed to be sold in the United States.

Salmonella outbreaks

Frozen shredded coconut
Announced Jan. 16, this nine-state outbreak was declared over as of Feb. 15. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 82 years old.

  • 27 people confirmed infected
  • 6 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 9, 2017, through Nov. 4, 2017

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that Coconut Tree brand frozen shredded coconut, distributed by Evershing International Trading Co., was the likely source of this outbreak. On Jan. 3, 2018, Evershing International Trading recalled all 16-ounce Coconut Tree Brand Frozen Shredded Coconut after Salmonella was identified in the product by officials in Massachusetts.

Raw, fresh sprouts at Jimmy John’s
Announced Jan. 19, this three-state outbreak was declared over as of Feb. 28. Patients ranged in age from 26 to 56 years old.

  • 10 people confirmed infected
  • No people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Dec. 20, 2017 through Jan. 28, 2018

Epidemiologic evidence indicates that raw sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants were the most likely source of this outbreak. Eight of the 10 patients reported eating at multiple Jimmy John’s restaurant locations. Of these eight people, all eight reported eating raw sprouts on a sandwich from Jimmy John’s in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Various kratom products
Announced Feb. 20, this 41-state outbreak was declared over as of May 24, but both CDC and FDA are continuing to investigate other illnesses and product contamination. Patients in this outbreak ranged in age from less than 1 to 75 years old.

  • 199 people confirmed with infections
  • 50 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 11, 2017, through May 8, 2018 

This outbreak was detected when a cluster of people infected with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:b:- was identified by CDC’s PulseNet. During the investigation, health and regulatory officials in several states and the FDA collected various leftover and unopened kratom products to test for Salmonella contamination. Multiple product recalls have been initiated by several different companies. The FDA website has a list of contaminated kratom products, which were from several retail locations and online retailers. A list of the recalled kratom products is also available on the FDA website.

Chicken salad from Triple T Specialty Meats and sold by Fareway stores
Announced Feb. 22, the CDC declared this eight-state outbreak over on April 6. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 89 years old.

  • 265 people confirmed infected
  • 94 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 8 through March 20

Public health officials in Iowa first detected this outbreak and linked the illnesses to chicken salad sold at Fareway grocery stores. The CDC searched the PulseNet database and identified illnesses in other states. Fareway stopped selling chicken salad in all of its stores on Feb. 9 after the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals contacted the company about the illnesses. 

Investigators in Iowa collected chicken salad from two Fareway grocery store locations in the state for laboratory testing. An outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium was identified in both samples. On Feb. 21 Triple T Specialty Meats Inc., which produced the chicken salad, recalled all of the chicken salad it produced from Jan. 2 through Feb. 7. 

Dried coconut
Announced March 21, the CDC declared this outbreak involving eight states and Washington D.C. over as of May 18. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 73 years old.

  • 14 people confirmed infected
  • 3 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Sept. 22, 2017, through to Feb. 26, 2018.

Eight of 10 outbreak victims reported eating dried coconut before becoming sick. Four of them reported buying it from Natural Grocers stores. Federal and state investigators collected and tested leftover dried coconut from ill people’s homes, as well as dried coconut from Natural Grocers store locations where ill people shopped and from the Natural Grocers’ Distribution Center. Lab tests showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium in an unopened sample of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic and in an opened, leftover sample of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic collected from an ill person’s home. The FDA also found the outbreak strain in samples of International Harvest Brand Organic Go Smile! Dried Coconut Raw and Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw.

On March 16, International Harvest Inc. recalled bags of Organic Go Smile! Raw Coconut and bulk packages of Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw.

Eggs from Rose Acre Farms
Announced April 16, this 10-state outbreak was declared over as of June 14. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 90 years old.

  • 45 people confirmed infected
  • 11 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Nov. 16, 2017, through May 13, 2018

More than half of the patients interviewed reported eating dishes made with shell eggs in restaurants before becoming sick. Outbreak investigators traced the source of some of the shell eggs supplied to these restaurant locations to Rose Acre Farms’ Hyde County, NC, farm. FDA investigators inspected the farm and collected samples. Laboratory testing identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Braenderup in environmental samples taken at the farm. On April 13 Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, IN, recalled more than 206 million shell eggs. 

Pre-cut melon distributed by Caito Foods
Announced June 8, this nine-state outbreak was declared over as of July 26. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 97 years old.

  • 77 people confirmed infected
  • 36 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from April 30 through July 2

Information collected from stores where ill people shopped indicated that Caito Foods LLC supplied pre-cut melon to the stores. On June 8 Caito Foods, LLC recalled fresh-cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and fresh-cut fruit medley products containing one or more of those melons that were produced at the Caito Foods facility in Indianapolis.

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal
Announced June 14, the CDC reported on Sept. 26 that it was closing its investigation into this 36-state outbreak. The agency stopped short, however, of saying the outbreak is over, mainly because of the long shelf life of the implicated breakfast cereal, which has best-by dates through June 14, 2019.

  • 135 people confirmed infected
  • 34 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from March 3 through Aug. 29

Three out of every four outbreak patients interviewed reported eating Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal before becoming sick. Investigators collected unopened packages of the cereal from retailers and from leftover cereal from patients’ homes. Tests showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella in unopened and leftover cereal. On June 14 the Kellogg Co. initiated an international recall of all Honey Smacks cereal that were on the market within the cereal’s one-year shelf-life.

Hy-Vee Spring Pasta Salad
Announced July 18, this 10-state outbreak was declared over as of Sept. 5. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 89 years old.

  • 101 people confirmed infected
  • 25 people admitted to hospitals
  • No confirmed deaths
  • Illness onset dates ranged from June 21 through Aug. 7

Epidemiologic evidence indicated that Spring Pasta Salad purchased at Hy-Vee grocery stores was a likely source of this outbreak. In interviews, 76 percent of patients reported eating Spring Pasta Salad from Hy-Vee grocery stores in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The ill people in North Dakota, Oregon, and Tennessee traveled to states where Hy-Vee grocery stores are located. On July 16 Hy-Vee Inc. removed Spring Pasta Salad products from all of its stores. The next day Hy-Vee formally recalled its Spring Pasta Salad.

Raw turkey products
Announced July 19, this 38-state outbreak is ongoing. As of the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 21, the patients range in age from 1 to 99 years old.

  • 216 people confirmed infected
  • 84 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person has died
  • Illness onset dates range from Nov. 20, 2017, through Dec. 6, 2018

Ill people reported buying many different brands of raw turkey products from multiple stores. Also, three of the 108 patients interviewed as of Dec. 21 became sick after pets in their home ate raw ground turkey pet food. Four of the 108 ill people interviewed worked in a facility that raises or processes turkeys, or lived with someone who did.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella is resistant to multiple antibiotics, including ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, kanamycin, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, ciprofloxacin and fosfomycin.

Extensive testing by state and federal officials across the country has revealed Salmonella in raw turkey, in live turkeys, at slaughtering facilities and at processing plants. Federal officials say the pathogen is widespread in the industry and the ongoing outbreak likely involves multiple products from multiple sources.

However, in recent weeks two Jennie-O Turkey Store locations recalled raw ground turkey in relation to the outbreak. Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC in Barron, WI recalled 91,388 pounds of raw ground turkey products and Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC in Faribault, MN recalled 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey products.

Empire Kosher chicken
Announced Aug. 29, the CDC declared this six-state outbreak over as of Dec. 7. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 76 years old.

  • 25 people confirmed sick
  • 11 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Sept. 25, 2017, through Aug. 13, 2018 

In interviews, ill people reported eating kosher chicken, and when asked about the specific brand eaten, several people reported Empire Kosher brand. The outbreak strain was also identified in samples of raw chicken collected from two facilities, including one facility that processes Empire Kosher brand chicken. The samples, collected by USDA-FSIS at the slaughter and processing establishment, were part of USDA-FSIS’ routine testing under the Salmonella performance standards. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella strain from the samples matched the Salmonella strain from ill people.

Eggs from Gravel Ridge Farms
Announced Sept. 10, this 11-state outbreak was declared over as of Oct. 25. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 94 years old.

  • 44 people confirmed infected
  • 12 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from May 17 through Aug. 26

Of the patients interviewed by epidemiologists, 81 percent said they ate restaurant dishes made with eggs before becoming ill. The restaurants reported using shell eggs in the dishes eaten by ill people. FDA and state investigators traced the shell eggs to Gravel Ridge Farms in Cullman, AL.

Laboratory testing found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis in environmental samples from Gravel Ridge Farms. Officials in Alabama also detected the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis in eggs. Whole genome sequencing showed the Salmonella bacteria from the environmental samples and from Gravel Ridge Farms eggs matched the Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people. On Sept. 8 Gravel Ridge Farms recalled cage-free large eggs with use by dates of July 25 through Oct. 3.

Ground beef from JBS
Announced Oct. 4, this 28-state outbreak is ongoing, as of the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 12. Patients range in age from less than 1 to 99 years old.

  • 333 people confirmed infected
  • 91 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Aug. 5 through Nov. 9

The USDA-FSIS and state partners traced the source of the ground beef eaten by ill people in this outbreak to JBS Tolleson Inc. On Oct. 4, the company recalled approximately 6.5 million pounds of beef in relation to this outbreak. JBS recalled an additional 5.2 million pounds of beef on Dec. 4.

Officials in Arizona collected an unopened package of ground beef from an ill person’s home as part of the outbreak investigation. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport was identified in the ground beef. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella identified in the ground beef matched the Salmonella in samples from ill people. The ground beef was one of the products recalled by JBS on Oct. 4.

Raw chicken products
Announced Oct. 17, this 29-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from less than 1 to 105 years old.

  • 92 people confirmed infected
  • 21 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Jan. 19 through Sept. 9

Evidence collected as of Oct. 17 shows many types of raw chicken products from a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella Infantis and are making people sick, according to the CDC. In interviews, ill people report eating different types and brands of chicken products purchased from many different locations.

The outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw chicken pet food, raw chicken products from 58 slaughter and/or processing establishments, and from live chickens. Antibiotic resistance testing shows that the outbreak strain is resistant to multiple antibiotics. 

Samples were collected at slaughter and processing establishments as part of FSIS’s routine testing under the Salmonella performance standards. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella from those samples matches the Salmonella from ill people.

Duncan Hines cake mix
Announced Nov. 7, this three-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from 26 to 72 years old.

  • 5 people confirmed infected
  • No patients admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from June 13 through Sept. 17

Health officials in Oregon identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agbeni in a box of Duncan Hines “Classic White Cake Mix” as part of an unrelated investigation. The CDC compared the pathogen found in Oregon with Salmonella strains in the PulseNet database and found it matched samples collected from patients in three states. 

On Nov. 7 ConAgra Brands recalled Duncan Hines cake mix in Classic White, Classic Yellow Cake, Classic Butter Golden Cake, and Confetti Cake flavors, with various “best if used by” dates ranging from March 7 to 13, 2019.

Tahini from Achdut Ltd.
Announced Nov. 28, this three-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from 17 to 52 years old.

  • 5 people confirmed infected
  • No patients admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from June 16 through Oct. 18

In interviews, all of the patients reported eating tahini in the days before becoming sick. The FDA had identified Salmonella Concord in a sample of tahini collected at the point of import. The tahini was Baron’s brand manufactured by Achdut Ltd. Whole genome sequencing results showed that the Salmonella strain identified in imported tahini matches the Salmonella strain identified in ill people. On Nov. 27 Achdut Ltd. recalled a variety of tahini products in relation to the outbreak. The FDA website has a list of the tahini products that were recalled.

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Editor’s note: Today Food Safety News takes a look back at the most significant recalls in the United States in 2018. As in past years, our year-end coverage is not merely a list of individual stories by individual writers. Generally, significant events are the other way around. Multiple stories by multiple writers are usually involved in our recall coverage, especially when illnesses or multiple companies are involved. It takes a newsroom — not solo work — to give readers the information they have come to expect from us.


Some of the biggest food recall news of 2018 didn’t come from a food producer or distributor. And, it didn’t force consumers to check their cupboards or refrigerators for potentially poisonous food. It came from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in September when he announced the agency would begin publicly disclosing retail locations that may have sold or distributed recalled food — in some circumstances.

The shift away from protecting “confidential corporate information” and toward public safety is so significant it made our Top 10 list of food safety news stories for 2018.

Another headline out of the Food and Drug Administration’s 2018 recall file was “the agency’s first-ever mandatory recall order,” Gottlieb said in a Late November statement about the FDA’s investigation of contamination of kratom products and dozens of related illnesses. The kratom situation, which included multiple recalls and a Salmonella outbreak, also earned a spot on the Food Safety News Top 10 list for the year.

Click image for enlarged view.

Other big recall news in the “Year of the Dog” involved millions of eggs, millions of pounds of meat and poultry, an unrevealed volume of other foods under the jurisdiction of FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Here, in no particular order, are some of the most noteworthy recalls initiated in 2018.

Romaine lettuce
It wasn’t an official recall, but many growers and others in the romaine supply chain launched a voluntary “market withdrawal” of all forms and brands of the popular leafy green two days before Thanksgiving. The action was at the request of the FDA, which announced the third E. coli outbreak in 12 months on Nov. 20. Hundreds of people in the United States and Canada fell ill in the three outbreaks. At least five people died.  

Outbreak investigators found the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 involved in the fall outbreak in the sediment of an irrigation pond on Adam Brothers Farm in Santa Maria, CA. The romaine harvest was well over by December when the contamination was confirmed, but in mid-December, the family-owned farm recalled red and green leaf lettuces and cauliflower in relation to the contaminated pond.

JBS beef
In October, JBS Tolleson Inc., a beef producer in Arizona that is part of the multi-national Brazilian company JBS S.A., recalled 6.5 million pounds of ground beef because of links to a Salmonella outbreak. The company expanded the recall in December to a total of more than 12 million pounds. As of Dec. 12, there were 333 people with confirmed Salmonella Newport infections across 28 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Jennie-O ground turkey
Although the CDC first announced a Salmonella outbreak traced to raw turkey in July, there weren’t any related turkey recalls until Nov. 15 when Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales in Barron, WI, recalled more than 91,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products. On Dec. 21 a Jennie-O Store Sales location in Faribault, MN, recalled more than 164,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the CDC report the outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products, and live turkeys. A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak. As of Dec. 21, the CDC was reporting 216 people with confirmed Salmonella infections, including one death, across 38 states. 

Shell eggs
On April 13, 2018, Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, IN, recalled more than 206 million shell eggs because they were implicated in a Salmonella outbreak bacteria. Three days later Cal-Maine Foods Inc. voluntarily recalled more than 280,000 eggs it had purchased from Rose Acre Farms. The CDC reported 45 people were infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella across 10 states.

In September, Gravel Ridge Farms in Cullman County, AL, recalled eggs because of Salmonella. Forty-four people across 11 states were infected. The FDA put its new policy to work, listing some retailers that carried the Gravel Ridge Farms eggs. 

McCain Foods USA Inc.
At least a half-dozen companies recalled more than 755 tons of food products because they contained ingredients from a McCain Foods production facility in Colton, CA. The factory produces fire roasted caramelized or sauteed frozen fruit and vegetable products. 

In a news release, McCain said it “identified a potential health risk” to its product line at Colton. The company was not exact about its problem at Colton when it originated, the volume of food involved, or where it was distributed.

The products were sold in Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walmart, Kroger and Target stores across the country. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reported more than a dozen food manufacturers in the U.S. received vegetables from McCain that were potentially contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

Fresh-cut melon
When Walmart and Kroger pulled fresh-cut melon products from their shelves because they were implicated in a Salmonella outbreak, it took supplier Caito Foods 48 hours to initiate a recall of the fresh fruit. The volume of precut fruit products involved was not disclosed.

Caito distributed the fresh-cut products, packaged with generic labels, to Costco, JayC, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods/Amazon. The CDC reported 77 people were confirmed ill in the related outbreak.

Del Monte fresh vegetable trays
An outbreak of infections from the Cyclospora parasite spurred Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc. to recall vegetable trays containing fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots, and dill dip in mid-June. Neither the company nor the FDA reported how many pounds were recalled.

Del Monte distributed the vegetable-dip trays to retailers including Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Demond’s, Sentry, Potash, Meehan’s, Country Market, Food Max Supermarket and Peapod. The CDC reported 250 people in four states were confirmed with the parasitic infections.

McDonald’s salads
Also because of Cyclospora parasite infections, McDonald’s pulled an undisclosed number of salads from restaurants in 14 states in July. Ingredients for the salads were distributed by Caito Foods, but were produced by Fresh Express.

Caito Foods officials told the FDA that Fresh Express had notified it of a product recall involving romaine that could be contaminated with the parasites. FDA issued a public alert after Cyclospora was confirmed in Fresh Express product, but the romaine-carrot mix was past its shelf life at that point. When the outbreak was declared over, there had been 511 people across 16 states confirmed with Cyclospora infections.

Retailers including Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and Walgreens removed salads and wraps from their shelves because of the situation.

Honey Smacks
In June the Kellogg Co. issued an international recall of its Honey Smacks cereal in relation to a multistate Salmonella outbreak. The massive recall is still active. However, the CDC declared the outbreak over in late September when the confirmed patient count was 135.

Public health officials are concerned that consumers could still have unopened boxes of the recalled cereal in their homes because of the product’s long shelf life. All Honey Smacks cereal, regardless of size, with best-by dates through June 14, 2019, is subject to the recall. 

Duncan Hines cake mix
In November Conagra Foods recalled four flavors of Duncan Hines brand cake mix after federal investigators told them Oregon’s public health department found Salmonella in a box of Duncan Hines cake mix. The strain matched that of patients in a multistate Salmonella outbreak.

A spokesperson with the Food and Drug Administration told Food Safety News the manufacturing plant where the recalled cake mix was produced is in the United States. The FDA’s outbreak investigation announcement Nov. 5 reported the agency was inspecting the manufacturing plant, but did not indicate where the plant is located.

Goldfish crackers, Hungry Man dinners, Ritz crackers
Several varieties of “the snack that smiles back” were voluntarily recalled by Pepperidge Farm during the summer after the whey powder used in a seasoning ingredient was found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

In addition to the Goldfish crackers from Pepperidge Farm, several other products had to be recalled, including Hungry Man frozen dinners, Ritz brand crackers in the U.S. and Canada, and several brands of snack cakes.

Both the FDA and the FSIS reported the manufacturer of the whey powder was Associated Milk Producers Inc., but the company did not issue a public recall. Officials with Minnesota-based AMPI posted a news release in July saying none of the implicated whey powder was sold directly to consumers. 

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Referred to as “a very limited quantity” of frozen peas by the producer, the recall of almost 25,000 cases of product from retailers nationwide because of a Listeria risk wasn’t worthy of public notification according to Pinnacle Foods and the FDA.

The recall, voluntarily initiated by processed food giant Pinnacle Foods on Sept. 29, was made public when retailers, wholesalers and the U.S. Defense Commissary Agency started posting their own recall notices.

To view a larger version of the Pinnacle Foods recall notice that a grocery wholesaler shared with its customers, please click on the image.

There is a good chance that consumers have unused portions of the potentially contaminated Birds Eye brand “Baby Sweet Peas” in their homes because of the product’s long shelf life. Best-by dates for the recalled frozen peas are July 5, 2019, and July 6, 2019.

Yesterday afternoon, an “Enforcement Report” by the Food and Drug Administration revealed the depth and breadth of the recall. Prior to that, the agency had not publicized the recall. FDA policy is to post food recalls on its website only after the recalling company has gone public with the situation.

The New Jersey-based Pinnacle recalled 24,690 cases of the frozen Birds Eye peas from 21 states, according to the FDA document. The FDA did not report the volume in pounds. The recalled peas are in 13-ounce packages with the UPC number 14500-02253.

“We are working with this firm in regard to their recall; however, it does not reach the threshold to require a public communication,” an FDA spokesman told Food Safety News shortly before the enforcement report was posted.

The FDA report shows Pinnacle distributed the recalled Birds Eye peas to the following states: Connecticut, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia and Wisconsin.

It is not known if wholesalers or retailers further distributed the frozen peas to other states.

As of Wednesday evening, the Pinnacle Foods website did not appear to have any information about the recall. In addition to Birds Eye, Pinnacle’s brands include such icons as Duncan Hines, Vlasic, Mrs. Butterworth’s, Log Cabin, Mrs. Paul’s, Van De Kamp’s, Armour, Lender’s, Wish Bone, Smart Balance, C&W, Hungry Man and Aunt Jemima.

Pinnacle officials did not provide a copy of their recall notice or answer specific questions submitted by Food Safety News. In an emailed response Tuesday, a spokeswoman for Pinnacle, Sarah Tremallow, reminded consumers to properly cook frozen vegetables.

The notices posted by retailers and wholesalers did not include photos of the specific Birds Eye peas packages that are subject to recall for Listeria. This photo shows one of the company’s package styles.

“The health and safety of our consumers are our top priorities and, as such, Birds Eye Vegetables has voluntarily recalled a very limited quantity of Birds Eye Baby Sweet Peas at the retail level,” according to the Pinnacle spokeswoman. “While there have been no confirmed illnesses reported, we took this action after consultation and agreement with the FDA.

“The vast majority of the product in question has been removed from retail shelves and will be destroyed. No other Birds Eye products are affected. It is important to note, for utmost product quality and safety, all frozen vegetables should be prepared according to the ‘Food Safety and Quality Cooking Instructions’ on the product package.”

On Oct. 2 a grocery wholesaler who distributed some of the recalled peas posted a notice that includes a document on Pinnacle Foods letterhead with a title of “Urgent: Food Recall Notice.” That document states the recall was initiated because a package of Birds Eye peas collected at a retailer “tested positive” for Listeria monocytogenes.

Advice to consumers
Neither FDA nor Pinnacle Foods reported when the recalled peas were available to consumers. Neither have they addressed what consumers should do if they have the recalled Birds Eye peas in their homes. They also did not provide any information for consumers who may have contracted foodborne listeriosis from eating the recalled peas.

Generally, food recalls involving possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination advise consumers to throw out the product or return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

Also, consumers are usually advised to seek medical attention if they have developed symptoms of Listeria infection after consuming potentially contaminated food. Symptoms can occur within two weeks of exposure, but can take as long as 70 days to develop in some people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Symptoms can include fever, muscle aches, headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance and convulsions sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. In some cases an invasive infection spreads beyond the gastrointestinal tract, according to the CDC.

In pregnant women, the infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature delivery or life-threatening infection of the newborn. Listeria bacteria can also cause serious, sometimes fatal, infections in young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems, including cancer patients.

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Women with veggie burger
A veggie burger with a side of salad.

Portland, OR — On a recent rainy evening, Native Foods Cafe in Bridgeport Village was bustling. Customers crowded around the counter to order burgers, nachos, chicken wings and other dishes, and people were happily digging in after being served.

The “Soul Bowl,” a mélange of beans, rice and veggies, had what looked and tasted like chicken strips on top. However, it wasn’t actual chicken, nor were there any animal products in any of the menu items. According to the chef, this “chicken” contained pea protein, soy and wheat and was made by Garden Protein International in Vancouver, B.C.

The Canadian company’s growing meatless product line is trademarked as Gardein and includes frozen faux entrées including meatballs, pulled pork, chicken patties, sliders, and even cutlets and roasts.

Indicating confidence in the future of such products, Pinnacle Foods Inc., a New Jersey-based conglomerate whose brands include Birds Eye, Duncan Hines and Log Cabin, bought Garden Protein for $154.6 million in 2014.

Pinnacle CEO Bob Gamgort told Food Engineering magazine he believes that “plant-based protein is at the tipping point of becoming mainstream … .”

Food safety considerations Advocates of plant-based protein sources say the risks of pathogens and other health problems is much lower with consumption of meat substitutes than with real meat. However, meatless products can contain liquid smoke flavoring, which may be carcinogenic, and there are lingering questions about additives used in some meat substitutes.

One of the latter is titanium dioxide (TiO2), used as a whitening agent in foods, cosmetics and other products.

Tofu burger
This burger features tofu instead of a real meat patty.

Dr. Joseph Puglisi, a professor of structural biology at the Stanford University School of Medicine who chairs a scientific advisory board for Beyond Meat, said “TiO2 is used in one of our products, but we have eliminated it in our future products.”

How today’s leaders and innovators in the meat substitute industry are adapting to overcome food safety challenges is an open question. Several of them declined to be interviewed for this story.

What is known is that just like U.S. providers of animal-based protein sources, the meat substitute industry must follow HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) rules and other safety requirements. And, like their real meat counterparts, meat substitute providers are regulated and inspected by federal, state and local health and environment officers. On the federal level, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates meat and poultry substitutes.

Impossible Foods Inc. responded to requests for comment with a written statement that its food safety challenges are “more easily controlled because our manufacturing process ensures a much higher degree of safety than what you would find in a slaughterhouse.”

The Redwood City, CA-based firm further stated that any pathogens that might be found on plants used in manufacturing its products “are completely eliminated by our suppliers before they are used to make our foods.”

“Unlike animal products, which could be contaminated from various body parts of the animal itself, the only way our products could become contaminated would be through mishandling by production operators. Federal Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) used at Impossible Foods dramatically reduce the risk of any such contamination,” according to the Impossible Foods statement.

Puglisi noted that potential contamination risks and spoilage are much lower with meatless products in general.

In addition, pathogens such E. coli and others grow far more slowly in plant-based products than in meat, and there is not the background of antibiotic treatment of many animals that further exacerbates the problem in the meat industry,” he said.

Human health impacts Some medical experts have long maintained that a primarily plant-based diet is generally healthier for humans and that a meat-based one, particularly processed red meats, can increase the chances of developing heart disease and cancer.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-beef-cattle-stare-image10956036
Some medical experts suggest it’s healthier to limit red meat consumption and eat more plant-based products.

“The impact of meat-based diets on human health — cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, obesity and cancer — are clear and highly public,” said Puglisi, adding that he believes Americans are eating less meat these days and that we are in a “transition moment” for plant-based meat substitutes.

This past fall’s report from a research division of the World Health Organization (WHO) asserted that hot dogs, ham, corned beef, sausages, bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer.

However, the panel’s findings were not unanimous, and one meat industry group vigorously disputed the WHO report, stating that it ignored many other studies “showing no correlation between meat and cancer.”

Sustainability and cost The meat substitute industry has been busy developing new products designed to bypass animal agriculture. They claim that plant-based protein is safer and doesn’t pose the same pathogen risks as real meat and that its production requires less land, energy and water.

Tempeh patties
Tempeh patties are often marinated before being added to a dish.

According to a 2009 World Watch report, “livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,564 million tons of CO2e per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide (greenhouse gases).” Reducing that level has been a goal of meat substitute pioneers such as Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat, a manufacturer of meatless products based in Los Angeles.

However, depending on how much ingredient processing goes on, the meatless end product might actually use more energy than an animal-based one. A report on the 2015 “protein alternative market” found that 45 percent of meat alternative consumers thought the products were overly processed and 42 percent thought they were too high in sodium.

Price differences can also be an issue, and some plant-based meat substitutes cost more than animal-sourced protein. Despite this, 61 percent of consumers in the 2015 meat alternatives market study agreed that paying more was worthwhile if the products were better for their health.

Land and water use are other areas of contention, with fans of plant-based proteins claiming that water requirements are much lower and that too much of the world’s forests is being razed to grow livestock for meat production.

The global market Despite the ongoing debate over sustainability, cost and appeal, it’s clear that plant-based meat substitutes are becoming more popular with consumers.

Recent projections put the global market for meat substitutes at $5.17 billion by 2020, with the largest share of the market being in Europe. According to one report, soy-based products held more than half of the market share in 2014, followed by tofu and related ingredients at about 41 percent. Frozen products comprised about 78 percent of the total market share.

Experts say that new product launches are expected to push the industry to even higher growth levels in the next few years.

Consumer and industry trends Appeal is a very personal thing when it comes to food items, and meat substitutes are a prime example. Tofu has gotten a reputation for being boring and bland, and Tofurky is an annual joke around more than a few Thanksgiving dinner tables.

Man looking at meat in store
Checking meat prices at the grocery store.

At the same time, a growing number of non-vegetarians are buying less meat and more meat substitutes. In 2013, only about 22 million Americans reported not eating any meat, while more than five times that number — 113 million people — said they were buying meat substitutes.

Meat alternatives have evolved to become more palatable, with companies going to great lengths to get them to taste like the real thing. For example, Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger is scheduled to debut here later this year and promises to replicate beef burgers in every detail.

“We’ve even discovered what makes meat taste like meat: a molecule called heme that occurs naturally in both meat and plants,” the company has revealed. “The result is a plant-based burger that starts out raw and then and looks, cooks, smells, sizzles, and tastes like animal-derived ground beef.”

Impossible Foods’ plans got a hefty boost this past fall in the form of $108 million in new investment from a group of wealthy funders, including Swiss bank UBS, Viking Global Investors, Khosla Ventures and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Major U.S. food industry players are noticing and responding to these trends, with Pinnacle’s purchase of Garden Protein being a case in point. Others have followed suit, with Kraft buying veggie-burger maker Boca Burger and Kellogg’s owning Morningstar Farms, one of the largest producer of vegetarian products in the country. Global fast-food giant Burger King has offered MorningStar’s veggie burger on its menus since 2002.

Holdouts include McDonald’s and Wendy’s, although the latter has been testing a black bean burger in limited markets.

A growing list of meat-substitute products Today’s meat substitutes include well-known plant-based standbys such as tofu and tempeh, and there are several newer products on the market that haven’t become household names. Here are some major ones, although there are many more:

Quorn originated from a 1985 UK joint venture and has attracted controversy because it contains mycoprotein and uses egg albumen as a binder. Some people are sensitive to fungal proteins, and vegans have objected to the inclusion of egg albumen.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has cited illnesses and even deaths from Quorn consumption, although the product’s makers have said that Quorn is safe and less likely to cause allergic reactions than soy, nuts or dairy.

Risofu (pronounced rhee-ZOE-fu) is a rice-based meat alternative touted as tastier and less likely to cause allergy problems than soy-based products.

Seitan strips in broccoli dish
An Asian dish featuring vegetables and strips of seitan.

Seitan (SAY-tan) is made from wheat gluten and is sometimes called “wheat meat.” Seitan must be cooked, has a meaty texture, is high in protein and is often used to replace duck in Asian recipes.

Tofu, or bean curd, results after soy milk is coagulated and then pressed into blocks. It comes in firm, medium and soft textures and easily picks up whatever flavors are added to it.

There are people who avoid tofu and other soy products because, unless the soybeans are organically grown, they are likely to be genetically modified. Also, some say that the isoflavones in soy act like a weakened form of estrogen and therefore may trigger breast or other cancers in women. However, research results to date are unclear.

Tempeh originated in Indonesia and is made from whole soybeans which have been soaked, partially cooked, and then fermented. Tempeh has a firmer texture than tofu and is usually fried and added to sauced dishes.

TVP, or textured vegetable protein, is also called “soy meat” and comes from defatted soy flour resulting from the production of soybean oil. Initially developed by Archer Daniels Midland in the 1960s, TVP wasn’t widely consumed until it was approved for school lunch programs in 1971.

Valess is a dairy-based meat substitute developed in 2002 by a Dutch chemist. After milk proteins are separated, seaweed fibers are added, along with sunflower oil and egg protein. It is currently available in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

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