FDA: Idaho Dept. of Ag Noted Moldy Yogurt Months Before Recall

By: CBS News/ WSAW Staff Email
By: CBS News/ WSAW Staff Email

UPDATE: Thurs 10:17 AM, Dec. 5, 2013

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) -- A report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the Idaho Department of Agriculture spotted moldy yogurt during a routine inspection at a Chobani facility in Twin Falls two months before the company issued a voluntary recall.

The Times-News obtained the report under a Freedom of Information Act request. More than 300 people reportedly got sick after consuming the moldy Greek yogurt.

The state denies the FDA's claim. ISDA spokeswoman Pamela Juker says state regulators never took note of mold during the July inspection. The FDA report says a lab technician spotted visible defects and found a yeast-like growth after testing the samples taken by the state.

Chobani officials say the company's goal is to ensure the Idaho facility is a leader in size, cleanliness, quality and safety.

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UPDATED: Wed 9:10 AM, Sept 11, 2013

(CBS News) TWIN FALLS, Idaho The Food and Drug Administration said that at least 89 people have fallen ill after eating tainted Chobani Greek yogurt products.

FDA spokeswoman Tamara Ward told The Times-News on Monday that some have described nausea and cramps.

The items in question were distributed from the company's factory in Twin Falls, Idaho.

While the people who fell ill ate the Chobani products, no link has been confirmed between the illnesses and the yogurt. However, Ward says the FDA is working with Chobani to hasten its voluntary recall, which was initiated because of reports of product bloating and swelling, as well as some claims of illness.

Chobani last week told grocery stores to destroy 35 varieties of yogurt reported to have been contaminated by a mold associated with dairy products called mucor circinelloides. The mold was found in approximately 5 percent of the Chobani items, according to the company. The affected yogurt cups have the code 16-012 and expiration dates between Sept. 11 and Oct. 7.

"We won't sugar coat it --- this type of mold is not pleasant," the company said in a statement. "While unlikely to have ill health effects upon consumption, nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our consumers, and we are taking all of the necessary steps to uphold our very rigid quality standard."

Randy Worobo, a professor of food science in Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said on the Chobani site that the mold in question can cause spoilage like swelling and bloating in yogurt, but it is not considered a disease-causing organism.

"This mold should not pose a health risk to most consumers," he assured. "Very rarely, it can act as an opportunistic pathogen, but not through food and usually only for people with compromised immune systems through inhalation. The organism is regularly used for the production of natural flavor compounds that are widely used in the food industry."

Health officials have also said the yogurt is not a public health threat, but the company said last week the "mold can act as an opportunistic pathogen for those with compromised immune systems."

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ORIGINAL STORY: Thur 10:11 AM, Sept 05, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) - Chobani says it's recalling some of its Greek yogurt cups that were affected by mold, a move prompted by reports of illnesses by some customers.

The recall comes about a week after the company first started asking retailers to pull the products from shelves, saying some cups were "swelling and bloating." Chobani had previously said it wasn't issuing a formal recall.

But the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday that it was in talks with the company about the matter.

Chobani said that most of the affected products have already been pulled from shelves. The company, based in New Berlin, N.Y., said the affected products came from its Idaho facility and represents less than 5 percent of its total production.

The containers are marked with the code 16-012 and expiration dates Sept. 11 to Oct. 7.

In an interview, Chobani CEO Hamid Ulukaya said it was the company's decision to move to a recall, not the FDA's. He said the problem was caused by a type of mold that is commonly found in dairy environments. The issue has been "totally fixed," he said, noting that the mold became a problem because Chobani doesn't use preservatives in its products.

Ulukaya did not say exactly how many reports of illnesses the company received, but said it was not in the hundreds or thousands.

"Everybody in the company took this hard," Ulukaya said. "It shook us up."

This week, the company was responding online to customers who were complaining about their yogurt. One person said her yogurt was "unnervingly fizzy" and another said it tasted like "wine."

The affected products include a number of different size containers:

- Chobani 6 ounce cups

- Chobani 16 ounce tubs

- Chobani 32 ounce tubs

- Chobani 3.5 ounce cups

- Chobani Bite 3.5 ounce cups

- Chobani Flip 5.3 ounce containers


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