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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Has Chobani Yogurt with the Mold, Mucor Circinelloides, Caused 170 Illnesses?

USA Today reports that the recent recall of Chobani Greek yogurt caused by the mold, Mucor Circinelloides, brought new attention to the issue of mold that develops in food, when it’s harmful and what to do about it. On Sept. 5, the company that makes Chobani yogurt voluntarily recalled containers with the code 16-012 and best-by dates of Sept. 11 to Oct. 7.

The Food and Drug Administration received a total of 170 complaints associated with Chobani yogurt as of Sept. 13. The various issues reported continue to be cramps, nausea, headache and diarrhea. The complaints were submitted by individuals in Arizona, Delaware, New York, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Indiana and Florida.

“These reports about a product only reflect information as reported and do not represent any conclusion by the FDA about whether the product actually caused the adverse events,” says Tamara Ward, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The Oregonian reports that Chobani has said that a type of mold not considered a foodborne pathogen contaminated the containers, causing them to hiss, fizz and even explode. Initially, the company brushed aside questions about illnesses but then acknowledged the reports.  It has not responded to queries from The Oregonian about microbiological tests of its yogurt. The FDA, which is strapped for funds, does not routinely carry out spot tests in manufacturing plants, such as dairies, for salmonella, listeria, campylobacter and harmful strains of E. coli. But the FDA does investigate outbreaks. It’s not clear what tests, if any, the agency might be conducting in this case because officials consider the mold a cause of spoilage but not illness.

Last week Cornell University Professor Randy Worobo said on a conference call arranged by Chobani that the mold “should not pose a health risk to most consumers.”

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Nearly a week after Chobani issued a recall, two grocery stores in Wisconsin are still selling the moldy Greek yogurt, the Public Investigator found during a spot check Tuesday and Wednesday.  The sales of recalled yogurt are going on despite stores’ assurances to customers that the affected yogurt has been removed.

“If you’re still seeing it on the shelves, that’s a concern,” said Tamara Ward, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is assessing the recall. “We have to look at what’s working and what’s not. It’s an issue we’re looking into.”