FDA spots bacteria in common food additive; no illnesses yet reported
THURSDAY, March 4 (HealthDay News) -- A wide array of food products are being recalled after traces of salmonella were discovered in a common ingredient, officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced late Thursday.
Salmonella Tennessee has been found in a widely used brand of hydrolyzed vegetable protein, a common flavor enhancer that is added to processed foods, the FDA said.
Products such as dips, salad dressings, pre-packaged meals, snacks and soup mixes from a variety of makers are included in the recall. A full list of the items involved in the recall can be found at Foodsafety.gov.
"At this time, there are no known illnesses associated with this contamination," FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said during the news conference.
The FDA said the problem was identified after a customer of the manufacturer, Las Vegas-based Basic Food Flavors Inc., notified the FDA in early February that they found salmonella in one lot of the company's hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
The FDA collected and analyzed samples at Basic Food Flavors' plant and found Salmonella Tennessee in processing equipment. Based on this finding, Basic Food Flavors is recalling all hydrolyzed vegetable protein in powder and paste form that was produced since Sept. 17, 2009.
Dr. Jeffrey Farrar, FDA's Associate Commissioner for Food Protection, said that although the contaminated product is in potentially thousands of food items, it poses a low risk to consumers.
The risk remains low because the ingredient makes up less than 1 percent of any foods. In addition, these foods often go through a cooking step, which kills the bacteria, Farrar noted.
"We believe the risk represented by this recall is very low to consumers," he said. "Many of the foods that incorporated this product, at a very low level, have 'kill steps' in place that would eliminate salmonella."
Only those products that do not have a "kill step" will be recalled, Farrar said.
The FDA has advised companies that the recalled product should be destroyed or reconditioned according to the agency's protocol. For products that may already be in consumers' kitchens, the FDA is advising that they check the recalled product list and follow "cooking instructions for all foods."
In addition, the agency is asking anyone who had symptoms of salmonella to contact their doctor.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy people infected with salmonella often have fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, according to the FDA.
Most healthy people recover from salmonella infection within four to seven days without treatment. However, in rare cases, the bacterium can get into the bloodstream causing severe illnesses, such as arterial infections, infection of the lining of the heart and arthritis, the agency noted.
For more information on salmonella, visit FoodSafety.gov.
SOURCES: March 4, 2010, teleconference with: Margaret Hamburg, M.D., FDA Commissioner, Jeffrey Farrar, D.V.M., Ph.D., M.P.H., FDA Associate Commissioner, Food Protection
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