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Contamination of an Ingredient Can Result in Extensive Recalls


Currently Mondelez Global is recalling Ritz Cracker products based on presumed contamination with Salmonella. Initial investigations showed that batches of whey powder produced by Associated Milk Producers Inc. at a Blair, WI. plant on four occasions during May and June may be contaminated with Salmonella as detected by a retain-and test program.


Whey is common ingredient in a range of foods and detection of Salmonella by the supplier   resulted in food manufacturers purchasing presumably affected batches having to recall products.  Mondelez has recalled seven consignments of Ritz Crackers, Flowers Foods has recalled Swiss Rolls and bread products, Pepperidge Farm has recalled Goldfish Crackers and Hungry Man Products produced by Pinnacle Foods may also have contained the contaminated whey powder.

As yet there have been no recorded illnesses associated with the event.


Two issues emerged from the ongoing problem:


  • A contaminated ingredient can be responsible for extensive recalls across a wide range of products and brands.  This was the situation in 2008 when consignments of Salmonella-contaminated peanut products were knowingly distributed by the Peanut Corporation of America.  The resulting recalls which unfortunately were detected following an extensive outbreak of salmonellosis including fatalities, required a recall far more extensive and expensive than if a single food product was involved.
  • The second issue which is probably more important is that in-plant quality control procedures based on HACCP can detect the presence of pathogens before outbreaks can occur.  During past months we have observed recalls attributed to Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli. It is possible that other cases of contamination detected by QC and not by outbreaks have occurred without publicity.
    There is an ongoing conflict between government agencies including the FDA and consumer advocates regarding early release of the names of companies and their brands with potential contamination. FDA policy has apparently restrained the agency from naming manufacturers until extensive investigations have been concluded.
    Attorney William Marler the doyen of food safety lawyers is an advocate for early release of information which he believes could protect consumers.  Hopefully his preoccupation with this aspect of foodborne disease outbreaks is altruistic and that he is not relying on the FDA to identify potential defendants for his firm.  Given his track record and public pronouncements, Marler is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. Since the 19193 Jack-in-the-Box E.coli STEC case he has served as a responsible consumer advocate and attorney when compared to the activities of his colleagues in the California tort bar.