Salmonella in Flavoring Triggers Recall
56 Products Recalled, Thousands More May Be Contaminated
March 4, 2010 - Thousands of processed food products may have been
contaminated with salmonella, the FDA today announced.
Fifty-six products have been recalled. The list is expected to grow, Jeffrey
Farrar, the FDA's associate commissioner for food protection, said at a news
"We don't know how large this is going to get," Farrar said. "This will get
larger over the next several days and weeks. ... The recall process may
continue for some time."
The contamination comes from a widely used flavoring called hydrolyzed
vegetable protein (HVP) made by Basic Food Flavors Inc. of Las Vegas. An
astonishing variety of products use HVP, including hot dogs, potato chips and
other snack foods, soups, salad dressings, sauces, chilis, stews, gravies, and
A wide range of foods already have been recalled. They include soup mixes,
dips, pre-packaged meals, potato chips, snack foods, and salad dressings
carrying the brand names Castella, Follow Your Heart, Great Value, Hawaiian,
Homemade Gourmet, Johnny's Fine Foods, Oak Lake Farms, T. Marzetti, and Trader
Possibly contaminated HVP has been shipped from the Las Vegas plant since
last September. It's sent out in 50-pound boxes, and these large packages may
be subdivided many times by other companies before being added to a final
It's not possible to tell from a product label whether the food contains HVP
or whether the HVP comes from the contaminated plant. Consumers should go to a
web site that will
be updated by the FDA as soon as new recalls are issued.
"Consumers can access a searchable database to find recalled products that
may be in their pantry," Farrar said.
The good news is that nobody is known to have been sickened by contaminated
foods. Unlike the recent peanut butter recall, in which investigators had to
figure out what made people sick and then trace the contamination back to the
source, the FDA was tipped off by a company that tested the HVP before putting
it into their product.
Under a new program begun by the FDA just last September, the company was
required to report the test result to the FDA. This happened last month,
triggering an FDA investigation. Federal and state investigators went to the
plant and discovered salmonella in the machinery used to make HVP.
Some of the companies that received the HVP have "kill steps" -- usually
cooking or heating -- that eliminate salmonella during the processing of their
food product. But the FDA has asked firms making any ready-to-eat food to
recall their products if they contain HVP from the Las Vegas plant.
Foods that undergo a "kill step" at home, such as microwave dinners, may not
be recalled even if they contain the recalled HVP, said Jenny Scott of the
FDA's food center.
"Cooking by a consumer would be enough to kill salmonella," Scott said at
the news conference.
The risk of contamination may be quite low. Most processed foods contain no
more than 1% of HVP. The flavoring is made by breaking down (hydrolyzing)
vegetables via a chemical process.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, MD, said this episode shows why food
safety laws should be strengthened to allow federal and state inspectors to
check plants for contamination without having to wait for someone to find a
contaminant -- or for someone to get sick.
"We are working hard to respond to this particular outbreak. Also, we are
working hard to put in place the kinds of preventive control measures to stop
this from happening in the first place," she said at the news conference.