Salmonella Recall in Puffed Cereals?

The local news just mentioned of a recall on puffed cereals due to salmonella. Sounds like it affects the store brands. How can one learn more? Who tracks these things, anyhow? (And, in the big picture, why is our food supply apparently more unsave than ever before? This is happening more and more!)

US - http://www.fda.gov/opacom/7alerts.HTML
Canada - Food Recall Warnings - High Risk - Canadian Food Inspection Agency

It does seem to be happening more frequently, haven’t read anything to indicate why.

I was too late getting the link I wanted to include in the first post but I knew David Suzuki had written about this issue before:
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/About_us/Dr_David_Suzuki/Article_Archives/weekly08020201.asp

I think the emphasis is on “apparently”. Several things have happened: the Food Police get more and more conservative with amounts of contaminants they’ll allow, food suppliers get more and more jittery about lawsuits, so they “voluntarily recall” things with less and less chance of actual harm and finally, as technology improves, so does tracking. I’d be shocked if 50 years ago it was even really possible to track down every box of cereal shipped nationwide in a timely manner. They’d probably have gone, “Damn, that sucks. Hope no one got sick,” and called it a day. And, while a small influence, more people are probably educated that “the stomach flu” is really food poisoning 9 times out of 10, and with increased accuracy of diagnosis, numbers go up.

Are more people actually getting sick off food, or are there more recalls*? The two aren’t synonymous.
*Or, in fact, *are *there more recalls at all? Or do we just hear about them more because the internet is a great place to get quick news and recall information? I don’t know about you, but I never think to go to the service desk at my local grocer and ask for a list of recent recalls. If that’s what my grandmother had to do to find out about recalls, no wonder she didn’t know of many at all.

I don’t think everything is quite so rosy. With large scale processing, there are a lot more opportunities for contamination than there were in the past. Plus, the food inspection budgets have been gutted and have been relying on the word of the processing plants that their procedures were safe. For too long we’ve been compacent about food safety in this country with the mistaken belief that we have the “safest food in the world”. We don’t. Here is an excellent article (PDF) about the problems in our food supply system and suggestions for improvement.

The CDC also does the epidemiological studies on it…

BTW, with this outbreak, the company detected the Salmonella in its inspections, and did the voluntary recall before CDC, FDA, and various state health departments caught on. Then those agencies noticed that this relatively rare type of Salmonella was going on and decided to investigate more.

Turns out many of them had cereal contact, and the strain that all of them had was similar (meaning it was probably a common source). More investigations and diagnostics are being done daily to corroborate the hypothesis that it was cereal that was contaminated (and in the recall list by the company) and caused the illnesses (yes, WhyNot, these recall has illnesses associated with it).

Also, if you want to see FDA recalls, you can go to the USDA webpage and search the FSIS site. It has an archive with all the FDA recalls over several years. I don’t think there is a big difference, some years there are many, some years they have less.

Our supermarket actually called us to warn us about this one.

I thought salmonella was a meat and egg borne bacteria. How does it end up on Puffed Rice?

There are many types of Salmonella, each with different reservoir hosts and ecology. Salmonella is actually very ubiquitous and resistant. Once it is found somewhere (procesing plant, animal, environment), it is hard to get rid of it. Not only meat and eggs, but poultry (chicken, eggs, dugs), reptiles (turtle, snakes, lizards), other foodstuffs (frozen meals, for example), can be contaminated with it.

In this case, the strain is similar to an outbreak that occurred with the same product ten years ago (search CDC for Salmonella Agona). One of the possible explanations was that after cleaning up the area, small remant colonies remained in the factory, and that a small problem in the production line triggered a delayed that allowed the bacteria to multiply and settle on the products being made.

I had occasion today to call Kroger about a different product. When the call was answered (computer), first thing was an announcement that Kroger brand puffed cereals were not affected.

The thing to remember is that not all store brands - often, very few - are manufactured by the name brand manufacturer. If you’ve got a store brand, call the number on the box. They’ll tell you, one way or the other.