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Pamela D McAdams

The FDA sent their first warning letter to the Illinois plant in September 2016.

Arielle Weg
October 01, 2018

An update, including a response from Kerry Foods, Inc. is appended to the bottom of this story. Here is the original story from October 1, 2018:

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks salmonella outbreak has finally been linked to a third party manufacturer, according to an FDA letter. The letter to Kerry Foods, Inc., a manufacturing plant based in Gridley, Illinois, suggests the plant knew about the salmonella contamination as early as September 2016 and did not follow the proper safety protocols. This is the first FDA update to publicly mention Kerry Foods, Inc. as the source of the salmonella outbreak.

The initial recall for Kellogg’s Honey Smacks began on June 14, 2018 with specific ‘best buy’ dates affected, but was later updated to include any and all boxes of the sugary cereal. The outbreak ultimately sickened 135 people in 36 states, according to the Miami Herald.

More information on the Honey Smacks’ salmonella recall:

This FDA warning letter states the facility tested positive for salmonella multiple times between September 2016 and May 2018, including 81 positive salmonella environmental samples and 32 positive salmonella vector samples in spaces such as the cereal coating room, production lines, and rooms used to manufacture cereal. The letter alleges that the facility did not take the proper steps once the salmonella was found, leading to the most recent outbreak among consumers.

In an email to the Miami Herald, FDA spokesman Peter Cassell said, “The FDA, CDC, along with state and local officials investigated a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Mbandaka infections linked to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks sweetened puffed wheat cereal. The FDA worked with Kellogg’s to voluntarily recall Honey Smacks from the market and conducted an inspection at the manufacturing facility owned by Kerry, Inc., resulting in a warning letter identifying specific problems at the facility.”

He added, “The FDA is working with Kellogg’s to ensure Honey Smacks are safe when they are again available to consumers and is continuing to warn consumers against eating any Honey Smacks with a marked ‘best if used by’ date before June 14, 2019.”

Update: 

After Cooking Light published this story, Deshundra Jefferson, a public relations representative for Kerry Foods, Inc., contacted editors and other staff. When asked multiple questions regarding the FDA correspondence, including why Kerry Foods, Inc. failed to adequately respond to contamination discovered between 2016 and 2018, and what specifically the manufacturer is doing now to clean up the factory, Jefferson responded with the following statement: 

Kerry has a long history of meeting or exceeding the highest standards of the food industry, and for employing robust preventive control procedures to ensure the complete safety of our products. We regret that we experienced gaps in implementing controls. Our highest priority is to provide safe, nutritious products that consumers can enjoy with confidence. We are mindful of our responsibility and we take these issues very seriously.

As a result of the FDA findings, we developed a comprehensive corrective action plan for the facility. We have now thoroughly reviewed our preventive controls and compliance measures at this site and have taken corrective measures, including:

  • Performed a full review of the facility and implemented changes to our hygienic zoning and traffic control programs
  • Updated our environmental monitoring program
  • Re-engineered certain equipment to improve its sanitary design
  • Enhanced training and auditing to ensure programs are implemented as written

We continue to work closely with FDA.  We value the agency’s careful attention to operations following this recall, as the close inspection of our procedures and practices provides us with a valuable opportunity to further strengthen our food safety programs and their implementation. It is essential that all of the food we produce is safe, and we are committed to making necessary revisions to our programs to ensure this goal is met. Kerry remains committed to delivering the highest-quality products on a consistent basis and is fully committed to implementing the corrective measures the FDA has recommended.”

The FDA and CDC continue to warn consumers against eating any Honey Smacks with “best if used by” dates of any time before June 14, 2019.