Food Contamination Incidents Mushroom

In the space of eight days, peanut butter, fresh cantaloupe, baby food, chicken strips and now mushrooms have all been recalled because of suspected or actual contamination. A call to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was unreturned.

BJ's Wholesale Club announced a voluntary recall of its prepackaged, private-label brand "Wellsley Farms" mushrooms yesterday after testing turned up possible trace amounts of E. coli bacteria. In a news release, the company said it had received no reports of illness, and recalled them as a precaution.

On Monday, Kraft Foods recalled its Oscar Mayer grilled chicken breast strips after it was found to contain Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause listeriosis, a rare but serious infection. There have been no reported cases of illness linked to the chicken. Kraft is advising consumers via a news release to return products with a "Best When Used By" date of April 19 for full refund.

Last Friday, Dole recalled cantaloupes that had been imported from Costa Rica, found to contain life-threatening salmonella. No illness was reported. Also on Friday, Hain recalled jars of Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast baby food because they may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, a life-threatening illness. No contamination or illness has been reported.



On Wednesday of last week, ConAgra recalled Peter Pan peanut butter as well as Wal-Mart's Great Value peanut butter after 300 people in 39 states were sickened by salmonella.

Sean McBride, vp/communications for the Grocery Manufacturers/Food Producers Association, says the government and the food industry is working hard to ensure the safety of the food supply in the United States.

"People need to have confidence in the foods they eat and the brands they buy," he says. "What you don't see in the headlines are the many, many, many incidences that never happen.

"The food industry across the board, from field to fork, has food safety as its number one priority. Without safe food, nothing else we do is possible."

Relatedly, the USDA announced earlier this week that it was implementing the first changes to its meat and poultry plant inspections program in a decade.

Plants with a history of problems will receive greater scrutiny, and conversely, processing plants that have better records of meat and poultry handling will see fewer inspections for contamination from E. coli, salmonella and other germs.

The new "risk-based" system will evaluate the type of product produced and the plant's record of food and safety violations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness each year in the United States, the vast majority of which are mild and cause symptoms that last a day or two. Some cases are more serious, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually. The most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems.

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