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Salmonella Worry Prompts Potato Chip Recall

Tom's Barbecue Potato Chips Recalled Due to Flavoring That May Be Contaminated With Salmonella
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

April 1, 2010 - All Tom's Barbecue Potato Chips have been recalled, Lance Inc. and the FDA today announced.

The chips contain salmonella-contaminated hydrolyzed vegetable protein, a flavoring agent that's now led to the recall of 177 U.S. products -- and counting.

Tom's Barbecue Potato Chips are sold in 1-ounce, 2.25 ounce, and 8.5-ounce flexible packages. The recalled products carry expiration dates ranging from May 14, 2010, to July 16, 2010.

The possible salmonella contamination comes from the seasoning used on the barbecue variety of Tom's chips but not in other Tom's chip flavors.

The seasoning is made with hydrolyzed vegetable protein made at the Las Vegas plant of Basic Food Flavors Inc. A company supplied by Basic Food Flavors tested the product and detected the salmonella contamination; a subsequent FDA inspection of the Las Vegas plant found numerous food safety violations and detected salmonella in food-contact areas.

So far, no human illnesses have been definitively traced to the growing list of products that contain the contaminated hydrolyzed vegetable protein. That may be because some of the contaminated products are cooked before being consumed; high temperatures kill salmonella. And some of the firms using the flavoring have a "kill step" that eliminates bacteria during processing.

Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is a vegetable, usually corn or soy, broken down into its amino-acid components by acids. One of these amino acids is glutamic acid, better known to consumers in its sodium form as monosodium glutamate or MSG. Foods flavored with HVP may be labeled as "MSG free."

An astonishing variety of products use HVP, including hot dogs, potato chips and other snack foods, soups, salad dressings, sauces, chilis, stews, gravies, and dips.

Tom's isn't the only brand of potato chips affected. Chips previously recalled due to salmonella-contaminated HVP include Barcel Tostachos chips; Hawaiian sweet Maui onion chips and rings; Herr's cracked pepper and sea salt flavored chips; and Pringles Restaurant Cravers Cheeseburger and Family Faves Taco Night chips.

The FDA maintains an updated list of the products recalled due to salmonella-contaminated HVP.

Salmonella Infection Symptoms

Salmonella infection symptoms begin anywhere from 12 hours to three days after eating contaminated food.

Symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

Fortunately, most salmonella infections resolve on their own within five to seven days. Antibiotics are occasionally needed for severe infections.

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