Friday, August 3, 2012

Onion Recall Cascades as Customers Recall Products Made with Suspect Onions

The Gill Onion recall is cascading as a number of retail chains are recalling products made with the recalled onions. To date, there have been a dozen or so companies recalling products made with the recalled onions. Here, like so many past recalls, we can see the impact of upstream suppliers on their customers. Traceability is key in that you know who your suppliers are, and where their product is being used.

The best news is that there have been no illnesses to date. In such a big recall, you might expect to have some illnesses associated with the product. So what are some reasons. Certainly luck may be a part of it, but there may be a few others that impact this:
- Low level of contamination.
- The Listeria monocytogenes serotype involved – As per Dr. Steve Knabel ‘of the 13 serotypes, there are 4 that account for the vast majority of cases of human illness.’ There are serotypes of L. monocytogenes that do not have the necessary genes to cause disease. While it is unknown at this point if this is the case, we can’t assume that it is. Further, if the conditions in the processing facility supported one serotype of L. monocytogenes, then it often assumed that those conditions can support the more virulent strains.

Gills recall sparks dozens of related product recalls
08/02/2012 3:06:26 PM
Coral Beach

A recall of one day’s production from a Gills Onions plant — that was expanded a week later to an “undeterminable” volume — caused a cascade effect as retailers and processors recalled more than 150 fresh products.

As of Aug. 2, fears of listeria contamination spurred five retail chains and seven fresh food producers to voluntarily recall products because they included recalled Gills onions.

No illnesses have been linked to any of the recalled produce or fresh products, according to multiple FDA recall notices at

Gills, Oxnard, Calif., initially recalled about 6,000 pounds of fresh-cut onions and celery July 18 after a random sample taken at retail by the Food and Drug Administration tested positive for listeria.

The company expanded the recall July 26 to include an unknown volume of whole onions and other chopped onions because investigators found listeria at one of Gills’ two Oxnard fresh-cut facilities. That facility has been closed since July 17 when FDA officials notified Gills of the positive test at retail, according to Gills spokeswoman Amy Philpott.

“Because the July 25 expanded recall does not include a beginning use-by-date, but rather included recalled products with use-by dates on or before Aug. 3, the number of recalled pounds is undeterminable,” according to a Gills onion statement.

“In the interest of public health, the company simply included all recalled products in the marketplace,” according to the release.

Philpott said the facility will remain closed until the listeria contamination problem is resolved. Gills continues to operate another processing facility in a separate building.

“They are running extra shifts, but orders are a bit behind,” Philpott said, adding that some retail and specialty product orders probably will not be met.

“Steve Gill has said it will take as long as it takes to resolve the problem.”

Gill has not been available for interviews, but he did include a statement in the recall notice: “We’ve identified the problem, and we are taking aggressive actions to prevent this from happening again.”

The actions include forming a panel of food safety experts and microbiologists with expertise in listeria control, expanding required microbial surveillance and sanitation programs, and continued testing.

“They also have a team looking at possibly redesigning the facility,” Philpott said.

In late May Gills recalled 2,360 pounds of diced red onions in the U.S. and Canada after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency did a random sample and got a positive result for listeria.

Gills built both of the facilities in Oxnard in the late 90s, Philpott said, and both were built specifically for onion processing. Gills started producing in the facility that is now shut down 15 years ago. The other facility, which is larger, opened 12 years ago.

As of the Aug 2, FDA’s recall Web page showed the following recalls related to the recalled Gills onions:

Simmering Soup Inc., Atlanta, recalled Trader Joe’s brand salsas and balela;
Whole Foods Markets recalled about 35 fresh food products in Florida stores;
Cool Creations LLC, North Kansas City, Mo., recalled about 20 fresh food products;
Wegmans Food Markets Inc. recalled six fresh food products;
GH Foods CA LLC recalled almost 90 fresh food products under a variety of store and specialty brands, including: Delish, Albertsons generic label, Garden Highway, Marketside, Natural Directions, Pacific Coast, Raley’s, Safeway Farms, Signature Cafe, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s;
Huxtable’s Kitchen, recalled Trader Joe’s brand roasted butternut squash, red quinoa and wheatberry salad;
Stop & Shop Supermarket Co. LLC recalled Costa Fruit & Produce brand calico bean salad from salad bars;
Spartan Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich., recalled Spartan Fresh Selections three bean salad and broccoli stir fry products;
Publix Super Markets recalled custom sub sandwiches that contain onions;
Ken’s Foods Inc. recalled cole slaw sauce, baked bean sauce and three brands of tartar sauce;
Garden Fresh Foods Inc. recalled ready-to-eat salads, slaw, salsa, bean and dip products; and
San Miguel Produce Inc., Oxnard, recalled packaged salad kits under the Cut ‘N Clean brand.

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