Hand with magnifying glass examining food safety label.

A complex and interconnected food system: In an historic flurry of recalls in the past few days, companies have recalled nearly 2,000 tons of food. So far, food companies that supply ready-to-eat salads, sandwich wraps and other products to big-name customers like Whole Foods, 7-11, Trader Joe’s, Jenny Craig and a number of other supermarket chains and institutional clients have announced recalls, all because of concerns that their products contain corn, onions or other vegetables possibly contaminated by the pathogens Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the first batch of recalls on Oct. 16, and by Sunday had posted a total of 12. Every recall notice explained that an ingredient had been recalled by the upstream supplier.

“These recalls demonstrate just how complex and interconnected our food system is today. When you buy something from the store, it’s possible the company that produced it was three companies ago,” Will Wallace, senior food policy analyst for Consumers Union, told USA Today. “This is a big deal. It could impact tens of thousands of people, if not more.”

The recalls by at least five of the 12 food processing companies involved vegetable products from McCain Foods USA, which on Oct. 14 initiated its own recall, according to the Food and Drug Administration. On Oct. 19, FDA announced it was investigating the McCain Foods recall. That investigation will likely involve trying to identify where the vegetables were contaminated at a McCain Foods processing facility, and if so at which one.

McCain Foods USA Inc. is now recalling all products from its Colton, Calif., facility, located 60 miles east of Los Angeles. The plant produces fire roasted caramelized or sauteed frozen fruit and vegetable products. The company, with headquarters in Lisle, Ill., has 11 facilities around the country and is part of Canada-based McCain Foods Ltd., the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products with more than 20,000 employees and 47 production facilities on six continents. The company generates more than $6.5 billion in annual sales.

If FDA determines one or more of the vegetables arrived at McCain Foods USA already contaminated, the agency’s investigators will then attempt to trace the product back “upstream” to the original supplier—and then determine if the vegetables were supplied to any other companies. The investigation is complicated by the fact that the 12 companies (and there may well be more) in turn supplied their products to dozens of retailers who sold their products at outlets all over the country.

Denison, Texas-based Ruiz Foods, for example, recalled nearly 2.5 million pounds of its ready-to-eat meat and poultry taquitos after being notified that diced onions it uses in the products might be contaminated. Its Go-Go Taquitos are sold nationwide at 7-11 stores. Likewise, Bakkavor Foods USA, which supplies the Harris-Teeter supermarket chain as well as Trader Joe’s, recalled more than 795,000 pounds of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products after being notified that the onions used in those products could be contaminated. Bakkavor has facilities in Carson, Calif.; Charlotte, NC; and Jessup, Penn.

As of 8:30 Wednesday morning, FDA has identified GH Foods Mary’s Harvest Fresh FoodsTaylor Farms Northwest LLCGHSE LLC and Prime Deli Corp. as having received McCain products. Those recalls took place on Oct. 16 and 17. On Oct. 19 FSIS announced another seven additional recalls. Those companies are:

  • SK Food Group of Groveport, Ohio, and Reno, Nev., which supplies Jenny Craig;
  • Buddy’s Kitchen Inc. of Burnsville, Minn., which shipped products to institutional locations in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and New Jersey;
  • Envolve Foods of Corona, Calif., which sells to grocery stores under the names of Simple Truth and Cadence Gourmet;
  • Caito Foods of Indianapolis, whose customers include Target and Walmart;
  • GHSW LLC of Houston, which sells to Trader Joe’s;
  • Ruiz Food Products of Denison, Texas, which sells to 7-11; and
  • Bakkavor Foods USA, which supplies Trader Joe’s and other supermarkets.

Iowa-based supermarket chain Hy-Vee Inc., also recalled six of its meat and potato products across its eight-state region.

All the recall notices say the recalls were initiated “out of an abundance of caution,” and that no illnesses have occurred. Although no illnesses are known to have occurred, this is a Class I recall, which under the USDA recall system means it is “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.” Cooking kills both Salmonella and Listeria, and many of the recalled products require cooking. Others, however, are “ready-to-eat” and would not be cooked.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and people with weakened immune systems. Healthy people may experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Rarely, a Salmonella infection could result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

Listeriosis is a rare but serious illness usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Symptoms can appear from a few days up to a few weeks after consumption of the contaminated food. Listeriosis can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include the elderly and people with weakened immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

Anyone who experiences fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, or develops fever and chills after eating any of the recalled products should seek medical care. Read more HEREHERE. HERE and HERE