Millions of pounds of meat recalled in late January

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recently announced four large recalls affecting more than 3.2 million pounds of potentially dangerous meat.

While most of that total was recalled because the food products contained undeclared allergens – a common and low-level health risk – tens of thousands of pounds of meat produced by an Illinois company had to be recalled because of a possible serious bacteria contamination.

On Jan. 17, Gusto Packing of Montgomery, Ill., recalled more than 67,000 pound of sliced spiral ham products because of a possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. A news release on the recall stated that the company shipped the hams to wholesalers for further distribution in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and parts of Canada.

The recalled products included Centrella Signature Harwood Hickory Smoked Spiral Ham with Natural Juices with a freeze-by date of Feb. 6, Amish Valley Fully Cooked Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Ham with a freeze-by date of Feb.6 and Ripple Creek Farms Fully Cooked Ready-To-Eat Hickory Smoked Spiral Sliced Ham with a best-by date of Feb. 13.

Gusto Packing inspectors originally discovered the contamination through its internal sampling program. After the discovery, workers then froze and stored the contaminated product for later reconditioning. But before that could happen, the contaminated meat was inadvertently shipped off to stores.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service categorized the recall as a Class-I high health risk recall.

Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes Listeria monocytogenes as a bacterium that can cause fevers, muscle aches, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal symptoms when consumed. Extreme cases can turn into septicemia or meningitis.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service's recall classification list. Class I is most serious, while Class III is least serious.

Food Safety and Inspection Service

The Food Safety and Inspection Service's recall classification list. Class I is most serious, while Class III is least serious.

Gusto Packing is a Butterball LLC brand.

The Midwest Center for Investigative reporting attempted to contact the company for comment on the recall, but representatives did not respond to multiple phone calls made on both Feb. 3 and Feb. 4.

The single-largest recall from the end of last month happened on Jan. 19 when Truitt Brothers Inc. of Kentucky recalled about 1.77 million pounds of shelf-stable pasta and ground beef products because of an undeclared allergen. Specifically, the recall was for 9-ounce microwaveable containers of Kraft Velveeta Cheesy Skillets Singles Ultimate Cheeseburger Mac with the best-by range of March 2 through Oct. 24.

According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service news release on the recall, the products were distributed nationwide and contained hydrolyzed soy protein and dried soy sauce.

These are some of the labels belonging to the Gust Packing recalled ham products.

Food Safety and Inspection Service provided photos

These are some of the labels belonging to the Gust Packing recalled ham products.

George’s Inc. of Arkansas also had to recall more than a million pounds of food when on Jan. 27 inspectors determined the company’s par-friend chicken tender products contained undeclared wheat. The recalled products include George’s Uncooked Breaded Chicken Breast Tenderloins, George’s Uncooked Chicken Tenderloin Fritters, stated a news release.

All products subject to the recall bear the establishment number “P-13584” under the USDA Mark of Inspection label.

The company distributed the par-fried chicken tender products to wholesale locations that distribute for institutional use nationwide.

The last of the four large meat recalls, European Meat Products Inc. of Colorado recalled about 130,000 pounds of various fresh and ready-to-eat beef and pork on Jan. 17 because the products may have contained undeclared wheat.

The recalled products included cooked beef meat balls, pork meat rolls browned in soy bean oil and fresh pork paste. All products subject to the recall bear the establishment number “Est. 7725” under the USDA Mark of Inspection label.

European Meat Products sold the recalled foods to distributors, restaurants and retailers in California, Colorado and Illinois.

Allergens continue to elude producers

A previous Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting review of recalls found that undeclared allergens – such as milk or peanuts – and mislabeling are the most common reasons behind all government-announced food recalls. From Nov. 1 through Jan. 16, the Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration announced recalls for about 50 products, half of which were caused by undeclared allergens and mislabeling.

The end of January was no different.

Of the 16 total food recalls announced during the second half of last month, a dozen were triggered because of undeclared allergens and mislabeling.

In addition to the major recalls already mentioned above, here are some other prominent undeclared allergen recalls:

Unified Grocers recalled its ginger snap cookies after discovering they were unmistakeably packaged with cinnamon sugar cookies.

FDA provided photo

Unified Grocers recalled its ginger snap cookies after discovering they were unmistakeably packaged with cinnamon sugar cookies.

On Jan. 31, Unified Grocers – the largest retailer-owned wholesale grocery cooperative in the western United States – recalled its 12-ounce bags of “Special Value Ginger Snap Cookies” because they may contain undeclared eggs. The company distributed the cookies throughout California, Arizona and Nevada. The error resulted after inspectors determined the ginger snap cookie packages were, in fact, mistakenly stuffed with cinnamon sugar cookies.

On Jan. 30, Walker’s Food Products Co. of Missouri recalled more than a ton of chicken salad products that contained an undeclared soy protein concentrate. The company sold the recalled products in Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

On Jan. 27, Pringles recalled “an hour’s worth of production” of its Original crisps. Products produced during that hour may have been accidentally exposed to seasoning that contained milk. Pringles distributed the recalled Original crisps to seven customer warehouses that sell to retail stores across the country.

On Jan. 23, Araya Inc. of Texas recalled its Marshmallows, Chocolate Gourmet Bars, Dry Fruits Covered in Chocolate and assorted chocolate gift boxes because those products may contain undeclared traces of wheat, tree nuts, soy and milk. Araya shipped the recalled products directly to customers nationwide.

Other recalls prompted by undeclared allergens and mislabeling were for cereal, waffles, instant chocolate drink mix, donuts and candy.

A brand of cat food was also recalled because of Salmonella concerns.

For a complete list and more information, please see the recall announcements from the Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Food and Drug Administration.