Discovery of Salmonella at Basic Food Flavors Inc. Prompts Scores of Recalls

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is actively investigating findings of <"">Salmonella Tennessee in hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), which was manufactured by Basic Food Flavors, Inc., in Las Vegas, Nevada. HVP is a flavor enhancer used in a wide variety of processed food products, such as soups, sauces, chilis, stews, hot dogs, gravies, seasoned snack foods, dips, and dressings. HVP is also often blended with other spices to make seasonings used in or on foods.

At this time, no illnesses associated with this contamination have been reported to the FDA; however, we have been following the growing number of food recalls linked to this outbreak. Yesterday, we wrote that Homemade Gourmet of Canton, Texas recalled about 320 packages of some of its Tortilla Soup Mix and Castella Imports of Hauppauge, New York recalled some of its Castella Chicken Soup Base. In both cases, the products were distributed nationwide.

Salmonella, which is usually found in food and water contaminated with animal feces, is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstance, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis. Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.

The Washington Post noted that thousands of processed foods, including “soups, chips, frozen dinners, hot dogs, and salad dressings” to name just some, could be contaminated with the dangerous Salmonella Tennessee linked to the recalled HVP.

To date, said the Washington Post, some 56 products have been voluntarily recalled as of yesterday; recalls are expected to increase making this—potentially—one of the largest recalls in United States history. “We don’t know precisely how large this recall will get,” said Jeff Farrar, associate commissioner for food protection at the FDA. “The potential amount of products … is very large,” he added, quoted the Post.

The pathogen was found in February in one lot of Basic Food’s HVP as well as inside its Nevada facility, said the Post, and is believed to go back as far as September 2009, which, said the Post, means that millions of pounds of possibly contaminated HPV were shipped over a five-month period to food makers, in bulk. Those food makers then sold their products to other customers, noted the Post. “This can potentially be in over 10,000 products,” said Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, quoted the Post. A searchable list of recalled products is available on the FDA Web site at:, said the Post.

If HVP is in a food product that requires cooking, Salmonella could potentially be destroyed when heated prior to eating; however, ready-to-eat foods that do not require heating, carry an increased risk. According to the FDA, if food makers can prove that HVP-containing foods were heated to adequate temperatures, then a recall is not required, note the Post.

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