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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Care 2 website post - contaminated hydrolyzed vegetable protein

This story came from the above link via my girlfriend Yecla. Thank you Yecla for bringing this important news about food to Yummies.

HVP: Biggest Food Recall in U.S. History?

posted by Melissa Breyer Mar 12, 2010 1:01 pm

HVP: Biggest Food Recall in U.S. History?

We will now attempt to scare you into walking away from the processed food. Why? Well for many reasons, but here is one that is immediately compelling. Thousands of types of processed foods–including many varieties of soups, chips, frozen dinners, hot dogs and salad dressings–may pose a health threat because they contain a flavor enhancer that could be contaminated with salmonella. Manufacturers have voluntarily recalled 56 products, and that number is expected to balloon in the coming weeks into what could be one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.

The salmonella was found last month in the flavor enhancer, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), made by Basic Food Flavors, as well as inside the company’s Nevada manufacturing facility, according to the FDA. The company has an extensive customer list of manufacturers who use the powder or paste to enhance savory flavor–it is similar to monosodium glutamate.

“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.”

The contamination is believed to date to September 2009, with millions of pounds of potentially tainted HVP–all of which the company has recalled–shipped in bulk to foodmakers over five months. Many of those companies then sold their products to other clients, complicating the chain and making it hard for federal officials to assess the scale of the problem.

According to the Washington Post, the company at the heart of the problem knew that its plant was contaminated with salmonella but continued to make the flavoring and sell it to foodmakers around the country. Federal officials were alerted to a problem with Basic Food Flavors in early February and sent inspectors to the plant within days of the complaint. They documented 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. In one area where paste mixers and belt dryers were positioned, FDA inspectors noted “standing, grey/black liquid” in the drain near the area where the hydrolyzed vegetable protein was turned from paste to powder. “We sensed an odor in the vicinity of this drain,” the inspectors wrote. Enough said?

The FDA has posted on its Web site a searchable list of products being recalled by manufacturers. It can be found here.

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