Salmonella Outbreak Linked to One Ingredient—That Could Be Hiding in Other Popular Products
We've seen four high-profile recalls based on fears of a possible salmonella contamination over the last week, a high count that is not routine, even for federal agencies who have recently faced reorganization proposals to improve efficiency. But all of these recalls are linked by a common ingredient—whey, a dairy byproduct produced when milk is curdled and strained—which evidence shows originated from one industry supplier, Associated Milk Producers, Inc. Though we had suspected this was the case, it was confirmed in an announcement posted yesterday by the FDA.
The first products recalled were among a line of private-label items, which included sugary desserts known as Swiss Rolls—these products made their way into Walmart, Food Lion, and H-E-B grocery stores before Associated Milk Producers, Inc. launched a voluntary recall of their whey product. But it became clear that Flowers Foods, the manufacturer of the desserts in question who didn't directly name the whey supplier, was just one of many clients who purchased the possibly contaminated ingredient from Associated Milk Producers.
On Monday, news broke about a recall of 16 popular snack varieties of Ritz Crackers due to tainted whey. As families were busy checking the affected batch codes on the popular snack, another recall was issued yesterday morning by Pepperidge Farms concerning various Goldfish snack mixes. Neither recall announcement directly named Associated Milk Producers as the whey powder supplier, which Food Safety News reports is a standard practice due to privacy laws—but a fourth salmonella-fueled whey recall announced by the United States Department of Agriculture last weekend did.
A line of Hungry Man frozen meals were recalled due to whey-related concerns. Apparently, the dairy byproduct made its way into frozen mashed potatoes packaged within the meals. But the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service linked the recall directly to the source: “The whey powder is an FDA-regulated product that is being voluntarily recalled by the producer, Associated Milk Producers Inc.”
More on the agencies in charge of regulating food safety:
Beyond the USDA's announcement for the Hungry Man frozen dinners recall, there hadn't been another notice linking Associated Milk Producers to any of the salmonella recalls we've heard of this week—and the dairy producer haven't made any information about their voluntary whey recall publicly available on their website. Cooking Light reached out to the corporate offices as well as the company's vice president of public affairs, but a representative couldn't be reached for official comment by the time this article was published.
Associated Milk Producers is a marketing cooperative that manufactures and resells cheese, butter, and powdered dairy products within the food industry here in the United States, according to Bloomberg. Founded in 1969, they're based in Minnesota, but also operate farms in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.
It's unclear if the at-risk whey powder produced by Associated Milk Producers were distributed to more products or manufacturers. Given the nearly one-week delay in announcements, however, there's a good chance that more popular food brands could end up launching voluntary recalls of their own in the following weeks.
After all, the Food and Drug Administration often doesn't force recalls until the manufacturer chooses not to issue their own—and the time period between the discovery of a contamination and the actual recall can be quite long. In one case, two months elapsed between a recall announcement and the actual removal of the product from shelves.