Food Recalls For Salmonella-Tainted Ingredient Could Hit 10,000 Products

We have been following the growing number of recalls linked to <"">Salmonella contamination at Basic Food Flavors Inc. in Nevada. As of our last report yesterday, recalls had exceeded 100 products; however, Bloomberg News, citing a Consumers Union scientist, said the number could top 10,000 products.

We also wrote that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it is actively investigating findings of Salmonella Tennessee in hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) manufactured by Basic Food Flavors. HVP is a flavor enhancer used in a wide variety of processed food products and that is also often blended with other spices to make seasonings used in or on foods. According to FDA’s release, it conducted an investigation after a customer of an FDA-regulated firm reported finding Salmonella in the HVP ingredient. This resulted in the subsequent recall of the contaminated products.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that Basic Food Flavors was aware its plant was contaminated with the potentially deadly pathogen, yet continued to manufacture HVP, selling it to food makers nationwide, according to the FDA. The Post noted that managers at Basic Food Flavors knew as far back as January that prior samples taken from its plant tested positive for Salmonella, but, according to FDA inspection records, continued shipping products to food makers. Worse, Basic Food Flavors tested surfaces near its food processing equipment throughout the Nevada plant on two occasions in January and once last month, said the Washington Post, citing FDA records; every time, Salmonella was present.

The records indicated that Basic Food Flavors continued to make more HVP and ship products, but never cleaned the site or its equipment in such a way that contamination would have been minimized. To knowingly sell food products containing the Salmonella pathogen is against the law, said the Post.

The FDA conducted 14 inspection in about two weeks, documenting “dirty utensils and equipment—mixers and tubing coated with brown residue—and cracks and fractures in the floor, as well as standing water on the floor—all conditions where bacteria can breed,” said the Post. FDA inspectors noted they found “standing, grey/black liquid” in a drain in an area with paste mixers and belt dryers and where HVP is converted from paste to powder, said the Post. “We sensed an odor in the vicinity of this drain,” the inspectors wrote, quoted the Post. Basic Foods produces about 20 million pounds of HVP each year and the contamination appears to go back as far as September 2009, implicating millions of pounds of HVP.

PepsiCo Inc., Procter & Gamble Co., Nestle SA, McCormick & Co. have already issued recalls of some of their products and many more companies and products are expected to follow, Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union, the advocacy group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine, said Bloomberg News. Wal-Mart’s Great Value Ranch Chip Dip, manufactured for the by the T. Marzetti Co. was been pulled from store shelves, Bloomberg News added.

According to Michael Doyle, director at the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia, “It’s a wake-up call for the food industry as a whole to be more thorough in evaluating the safety of ingredients…. Big companies are putting their trust in suppliers, which is their Achilles heel,” quoted Bloomberg News.

A list of affected products can be found at

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