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Check your sesame seed paste carefully: Expiration labels on six popular brands last well into 2021—and some packaging is in Hebrew, among other concerns.

Zee Krstic
February 11, 2019

In late November, a widespread recall of six popular tahini brands was initiated due to a potential salmonella contamination—and more than 12 weeks later, the Food and Drug Administration is again warning Americans that the thread of foodborne illness isn't over.

Federal agents are concerned that extended expiration dates, which lead into 2021, could mean that shoppers still have tainted tahini in their pantry. Plus, the tahini manufacturer behind the brands affected—Achdut Ltd., based in Israel—printed some of their products in Hebrew and under multiple names, according to the FDA.

The brands in question include Achdut, Baron's, S&F, Pepperwood, Achva, and Soom, all popular options in supermarkets across the nation. The FDA says that genome sequencing helped investigators determine that the presence of Salmonella Concord in the production line was specifically traced back to Baron's tahini product.

In their first warning posted in November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked shoppers to return or immediately dispose of the tahini—and anything that uses it as an active ingredient.

“Some recalled products may not have dates or may have labels written in Hebrew. If you do not know whether the tahini product has been recalled, do not eat it and throw it away," the recall notice reads. To date, only five salmonella-related illnesses have been reported to the FDA since the initial recall, though that number could rise.

The FDA has made clear which products could still pose a threat to shoppers in their latest update, sharing that some of the products in question could lack proper labels and expiration dates. When in doubt, they've asked shoppers to bring their tahini jars back to the retailer for inspection.

“The FDA is advising consumers not to eat recalled Achva, Achdut, Soom, S&F, and Pepperwood brand tahini and Soom brand Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread (with the) lot code 071318CH (and) with expiration dates ranging from April 7, 2020, to May 21, 2020, and Baron’s brand tahini with the expiration date of May 5, 2021.” according to the agency’s update.

You can see Soom Foods' recall announcement here, which explains how the recall began. Be sure to check your tahini products, and thoroughly disinfect any areas that have come into contact with the potentially contaminated tahini should you need to do so.

The original article, published November 28, 2018, continues below:

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Israel-based tahini manufacturer Achdut LTD. is recalling all of its tahini products after a random sample tested positive for salmonella—the brands in question include Achdut, Baron's, S&F, Pepperwood, Achva, and a popular name with many millennial shoppers, Soom.

The Food and Drug Administration reports that the salmonella contamination has already sickened five in New York, Michigan, and Hawaii, with the possibility that more cases have yet to be reported.

The FDA reports that the voluntary recall was issued after a tainted sample was taken from a shared manufacturing space for all Achdut tahini, which consists of ground sesame seeds as well as any additional flavored ingredients that are unique to each product. Achdut exported the products to the United States as well as other countries currently not named by the FDA.

Tahini has a long shelf life, which could be of concern for shoppers who buy the product in bulk—the FDA has a full list of affected products with unique retail codes, expiration dates, and actual product photos listed right here, but most expiration dates run through May 2020. The tahini in question was produced between April 7 and May 21 of this year, the federal agency says.

“(The) CDC identified five ill people in the U.S. infected with Salmonella Concord that had the same genetic fingerprint as the Salmonella Concord found in tahini sampled at the point of import into the United States,” the FDA says. “Of the five U.S. cases interviewed, all five reported consuming hummus made with tahini; three people reported eating tahini or hummus made with tahini in a restaurant in the U.S., while the other two people reported consuming tahini or hummus made with tahini during international travel.”

More recall news you need to know now:

The tahini products being recalled under all five brands range in size and product name, as well—tahini, whole tahini, seasoned tahini, and organic tahini are all on the agency's recall list, with product sizes ranging between 15 ounces and 635 ounces. The FDA says that some of the products are also labeled exclusively in Hebrew.

Federal investigators have not shared which retailers have the tahini in question in stock—it also hasn't named any retailer that received the tahini in bulk stock. But many Cooking Light readers may already be familiar with one of the brands included in the recall—Soom tahini is a widely available product in many traditional retailers, regional chains as well as specialty grocery stores.

Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

But you shouldn't swear off tahini for good just yet, because it seems that the root of the problem is cross contamination, the FDA says—and it names the brand which tested positive for salmonella: Baron's.

"We would never share food we wouldn't consume ourselves or feed to our families," says Soom CEO Shelby Zitelman in a statement released to the public. "Because customer safety and satisfaction is of utmost importance to us, in cooperation with our contracted manufacturer and the FDA, we are voluntarily participating in this recall."

A brand representative says that none of Soom's products tested positive for salmonella—it seems that is just limited to Baron's tahini products—but given that the manufacturing space is shared, Soom and other brands on the list are being included out of caution.

If you've recently purchased a tahini product and can't identify the brand by retail lot codes or expiration dates, the FDA is asking you to bring the product back to the point of purchase—and if your product is included on the recall list, to receive a refund and immediately discard.