Post updated on July 19, 2016, to include the ConAgra and Bar-S recalls.
We’re almost smack-dab in the middle of 2016. And from a food safety perspective, it’s already been quite a year.
Even as the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) comes into effect, food recalls — and the damages associated with them — have been getting bigger. Here are nine recall stories that made the news in the first half of this year.
In a story that started small, but quickly mushroomed, ConAgra Foods recalled nearly 200,000 pounds of P.F. Chang’s frozen dinners because metal shards were discovered in the sugar used in the sauce.
The recall, which is in process as of this writing, is Class I, meaning a high-risk, serious health hazard.
In another recall that is ongoing as of this writing, Bar-S foods is recalling close to 400,000 pounds of RTE hot dog and corn dog products because of a potential Listeria contamination.
In one of the largest recalls in recent history, last spring CRF Frozen Foods recalled more than 400 products processed in its Pasco, Washington, facility due to a Listeria outbreak that has killed at least eight people so far. The products, which included frozen traditional and organic fruit and vegetable products, had been sold under over 40 brand names in all 50 states.
The total health and economic consequences of this recall are still yet to be determined, in part because the recalled products have dates going back to May 1, 2014.
In a similar incident, the National Frozen Food Corp. (NFF) just this month recalled its frozen peas and mixed vegetables, which have been sold under at least 13 brand names, including Walmart’s Great Value and Target’s Market Pantry.
The impact of the recall is expected to grow in the coming weeks as other producers who use NFF vegetables in their own products come forward.
SunOpta recalled their sunflower seed products, also because of Listeria.
If these had just been sunflower seeds to snack on at baseball games, this recall might have gone relatively unnoticed by the general population. However, many other producers use SunOpta sunflower kernels in their own products — like trail mixes and snack bars. As a result, this recall has sent ripples throughout the industry.
Minnesota-based GNP company recalled nearly 56,000 pounds of chicken products, this time not because of Listeria, but because of contamination with sand and soil. The company has attributed the problem to an “isolated product tampering incident.”
This is exactly the type of incident that the FDA is aiming to head off with the Food Defense Act, which is the first federal law to specifically target intentional adulteration.
The biggest Blue Bell incident happened last year, when the company recalled all of its products everywhere because of Listeria.
The newest recall isn’t because of pathogens — it’s because of allergens. Cartons of Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream were shipped bearing the label Rocky Road, meaning that the allergens in Cookies ‘n Cream (soy and wheat) were not properly declared.
Blue Bell suffered huge reputation damage after the 2015 recall. While this one isn’t nearly as severe, it’s not good news for a company still trying to win back the ice cream-eating public.
Flour isn’t usually thought of as an oft-recalled food. But it can be a big one.
General Mills recalled 10 million pounds of flour after it was linked to an E. coli outbreak going back to December 2015. The flour was distributed to other producers, not consumers. The jury is still out on whether there will be secondary recalls of products containing the flour, such as raw cookie dough and oven-ready pie crusts.
In other flour recall news, Grain Craft issued a large recall of wheat flour that may have been contaminated with peanuts.
Again, this flour wasn’t sold directly to consumers, but to other producers. Secondary recalls continue to come out. They currently include products ranging from Special K cereal and Rold Gold pretzels, to Cinnabons and Safeway bakery items.
These are only a few of the companies that have been affected by recalls in the first half of this year. Their stories underscore the importance not just of complying with the letter of food safety laws, but with the spirit. Hopefully, as FSMA roles out and processors shift to a more preventative approach, we’ll see these lists growing shorter and shorter.
Curious about the biggest food recalls of all time? Check them out here.