Salmonella found in flavor enhancer used in thousands of processed foods

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FDA recalls some foods with flavor enhancer HVP March 4: The Food and Drug administration is recalling a widely used food flavoring found in soups, snack foods, hot dogs, chili, and salad dressings because of possible salmonella contamination. NBC‘s Brian Williams reports.


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updated 7:13 p.m. ET, Thurs., March. 4, 2010

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a recall of a common flavor enhancer that could be contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

The product, called hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP, is potentially in thousands of food products, including soups, sauces, chilis, stews, hot dogs, gravies, seasoned snack foods, dips and dressings. HVP is manufactured by a Las Vegas company.

No illnesses have been reported, said Dr. Ian Williams, acting chief of outbreak response and prevention branch for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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In coordination with the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, plus other federal agencies and state health departments, the FDA is closely monitoring and assessing the potential risks of illness from affected products. “Our investigators were able to identify this problem before any illnesses occurred,” said FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg. “While the investigation is continuing, the agency is supporting reasonable steps to continue to protect the public health.”

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The manufacturer of the affected product is Basic Food Flavors Inc. in Las Vegas. Only HVP manufactured by Basic Food Flavors is involved in this recall. This is the first recall with this ingredient. Recall will likely grow over days, weeks “We don’t know precisely how large this recall will get,” said Dr. Jeff Farrar, associate commissioner for food safety, FDA’s Office of Foods. “We expect this to get larger over the next several days to several weeks.” Many of the products with the flavor enhancer contain a “kill step” designed to destroy salmonella. Those products will not be recalled, said Farrar. The FDA conducted an investigation at the facility after a customer of Basic Food Flavors reported finding Salmonella Tennessee in one production lot of HVP to the FDA Reportable Food Registry, created in September 2009. After getting the tip, the FDA collected and analyzed samples at the facility and confirmed the presence of Salmonella Tennessee in the company’s processing equipment. The company is recalling all hydrolyzed vegetable protein in powder and paste form that it has produced since Sept. 17. The food registry was created after the recall of salmonella-tainted peanuts that killed several hundred. “When companies receive a product that they believe may be contaminated, they have to let the FDA know,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy FDA commissioner. “Within just a few days, we were [investigating].” The FDA declined to identify the customer who made the report. At this time, FDA is taking several steps to instruct industry and protect consumers from potential salmonella infection.

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“This situation clearly underscores the need for new food safety legislation to equip FDA with the tools we need to prevent contamination,” said Farrar. FDA is advising industry that the recalled bulk HVP product should be destroyed or reconditioned according to FDA-approved procedures. FDA is also recommending recalls of certain products that might be eaten by consumers without any processing or cooking steps to address the potential risk.

“Our investigation is continuing. We are proceeding with special studies to make sure foods containing those products are safe,” Farrar said. “We are working with food manufacturers and distributors to provide guidance on any products that will need to be recalled. We are also creating a Web page to find any recalled products that may be in their pantry.” For list of recalled products, go to http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/HVPCP/

  • Remember to follow cooking instructions for all foods.
  • Report symptoms of Salmonella or other food-related illness to your local health care professional.

Salmonella bacteria can cause diarrhea, fever and cramps. It can can be a serious and sometimes fatal infection in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a recall of a common flavor enhancer that could be contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

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