Contaminated powdered milk creates a chain of food recalls

February 22, 2017

From macaroni and cheese, to waffle mix, to potato chips and more, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a series of related product recalls a few months ago due to possible Salmonella contamination.

Although seemingly unrelated, the products mentioned above, along with more than two dozen others, all contained powdered milk as an ingredient, which was sourced from a single facility where Salmonella contamination was found by FDA investigators.

At the facility the investigators reviewed the company’s records, which showed positive results for Salmonella in the plant’s internal environmental and finished product samples. In addition, environmental swabs collected during the inspection confirmed the presence of Salmonella meleagridis on surfaces food came into contact with after being pasteurized.

Based on their findings, the FDA asked the company to conduct a voluntary recall of the implicated products, to which they refused. As a result, the FDA seized the adulterated product — estimated to be worth nearly $4 million. From this event, several secondary recalls have since occurred by companies who sourced the powdered milk as an ingredient in their own products — creating a chain reaction so to speak.

It’s important to note that these secondary recalls were announced out of caution as no samples of powdered milk have yet tested positive for the bacteria, and no illnesses have been reported.

In this and other similar situations, proper HACCP guidelines indicate that a facility should first perform a risk assessment to determine any high-risk ingredients they are using or bringing into their facility. If the ingredients are determined to be high risk for Salmonella or other pathogens (history of recalls necessitate this for milk powder), preventative controls must be put into place to minimize or eliminate this risk.

This usually involves processing or a thermal kill step to eliminate harmful contamination, which can be validated using pathogen test kits. Validation will provide evidence that the processing step can in fact eliminate the risk.

Pathogen test kits can also be used for verification, proving the processing step continues to eliminate the risk. In either case, high risk incoming ingredients should be tested and held from production pending negative results from the test(s) utilized.

Neogen’s Reveal® 2.0 for Salmonella, is AOAC-approved and validated on dry milk powder. This test is easy to use and provides results in 20 hours, meaning suppliers can be qualified prior to accepting their load into production. Reveal 2.0 for Salmonella is also an excellent tool for supplier verification of incoming ingredients, an important regulation through the Food Safety Modernization Act.

For more information on Neogen’s food safety solutions, click here.

Category: Food Safety