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American Food & Ag Exporter

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Needless Recalls

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, October 2, 2006

Since Pacific Coast Fruit Company initiated its voluntary recall on September 22, 2006, we have been able to count up to five separate companies that did voluntary recalls.

If it is correct, as the actual testing seems to be indicating, that the bad spinach was a batch packed under the Dole brand, then virtually all of these recalls were unnecessary.

Still, one weakness in the industry systems that this outbreak revealed was a weakness in the traceback program.

If the standard was going to be a total recall if you bought Natural Selection Foods product processed between certain dates, those recalls should have been able to be done simultaneously with the Natural Selection Foods recall.

Addressing this shortfall in our systems will be crucial in some future food safety outbreak. It didn’t matter much here because the FDA came out with a blanket recommendation against fresh spinach usage, but if they had not, this dribbling in of recalls would have severely undermined consumer confidence.

And, by the way, other than Natural Selection Foods, only four companies announced recalls. That doesn’t make sense.

Natural Selection Foods’ spinach must have been in at least 50 derivations of spinach-containing fresh salads and also used in loads of secondary products — items such as “wet salads” used in the deli, manufactured products, such as pizzas or calzones.

Fortunately, none of the bulk product was likely ever dangerous. But if it had been, people would be dying from eating fresh tabouli and spinach salad at their local delis, and our traceback program has proven wildly inadequate to the task of quickly identifying where all the product is and getting it off the market.

To date, here is a summary of the five firms that initiated recalls:

  1. On September 22, 2006, Pacific Coast Fruit Company of Portland, Oregon, initiated a voluntary recall of products that may have included spinach supplied by Natural Selections Foods. Pacific Coast Fruit Company stopped making all products with spinach supplied from California on September 14, 2006. The recalled products are:

    Baby Spring Mix Salad Kit (4.6 lbs), Chef on the Run — Bacon Spinach Salad (9 oz. plus 2 fl. oz. dressing), Chef on the Run — Spring Greens Salad (5 oz. plus 2 fl. oz. dressing), Chef on the Run — Willamette Valley Salad (10 oz. plus 2 fl. oz. dressing),Trader Joe’s — Baby Spinach and Greens with Bleu Cheese, Candied Pecans and Cranberries with Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing (10 oz.), Trader Joe’s — Baby Greens and Spinach Salad with Wild Maine Blueberry Dressing (10 oz.), Mediterranean Veggie Blend Kit — 15 lbs, and My Brothers Pizza Spinach and Garlic — 15 oz. and 36 oz.

    Most of the salad products can be identified by the labels Trader Joe’s, My Brothers Pizza or Chef on the Run and are in clamshell containers. Pizza products are in round cardboard bottoms with a plastic over wrap. All salad products will have a “use by date” on or before September 20, 2006. Pizza products will have a “use by date” on or before September 23, 2006. The products were distributed through various retail outlets in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. There is no international distribution.
  2. On September 22, 2006,Triple B Corporation, doing business as S.T. Produce, of Seattle, Washington, initiated a voluntary recall of its fresh spinach salad products with a “use by date” of 8/22/2006 thru 9/20/2006. Spinach used in these products may have been supplied from Natural Selection Foods of California. The recalled products were distributed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana to retail stores and delis and sold in a hard plastic clamshell container.

    The products recalled by S.T. Produce are: NWG Spinach Salad (5 oz.), Spinach Salad, QFC (5 oz.), Charlie’s Spinach Salad (5 oz.), Charlie’s Tabouli & Goat Cheese Salad (10 oz.), NWG Tabouli & Goat Cheese Salad (10 oz.),Tabouli & Goat Cheese Salad, QFC (10 oz.), T/H Spring Mix Salad (5.5 oz.), T/H Mozzarella Spring Mix Salad (5.5 oz.), T/H Baby Spinach Salad (5.5 oz.), Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad w/ Grilled Chicken Breast (6.5 oz.), Larry’s Market Tabouli & Goat Cheese Salad (10 oz.), Charlie’s Seasonal Greens Salad (2.5 oz.), Charlie’s Seasonal Greens Salad (4 oz.), Charlie’s Baby Spinach Salad (6 oz.), Charlie’s Baby Spinach Salad (5 oz.) and Caesar Bowtie Noodle Salad Kit with Grilled Chicken Breast (6.9 lbs).
  3. On September 19, 2006, RLB Food Distributors, L.P., West Caldwell, New Jersey, initiated a voluntary recall of certain salad products that may contain spinach with an “Enjoy Thru” date of 9/20/06.

    The products recalled by RLB are: Balducci’s Mesclun Mix 5 oz., Balducci’s Organic Baby Spinach 5 oz., Balducci’s Mixed Greens 5 oz., FreshPro Mesclun Mix 5 oz., FreshPro Organic Baby Spinach 5 oz., FreshPro Mixed Greens 5 oz., FreshPro Salad Mix with Italian Dressing 4.75 oz., and FreshPro Salad Mix with Ranch Dressing 5.25 oz.
  4. On September 17, 2006, River Ranch of Salinas, California, announced a voluntary recall of packages of spring mix containing spinach. River Ranch obtained bulk spring mix containing spinach from Natural Selections. The following brands are involved: Fresh N’ Easy Spring Mix and Hy-Vee Spring mix containing baby spinach, distributed to retailers in Texas, Iowa, New Mexico, Georgia and Ohio. Product was packed in 5 oz. bags and 5 oz. plastic trays. Products that do not contain spinach are not part of this recall.
  5. On September 15, 2006, Natural Selection Foods, LLC, of San Juan Bautista, California, announced a voluntary recall of all products containing spinach in all brands they pack with “best if used by” dates of August 17, 2006 through October 1, 2006. These products include spinach and any salad with spinach in a blend, both retail and food service products. Products that do not contain spinach are not part of this recall.

    Natural Selection Foods, LLC brands include: Natural Selection Foods, Pride of San Juan, Earthbound Farm, Bellissima, Dole, Rave Spinach, Emeril, Sysco, O Organic, Fresh Point, River Ranch, Superior, Nature’s Basket, Pro-Mark, Compliments, Trader Joe’s, Ready Pac, Jansal Valley, Cheney Brothers, D’Arrigo Brothers Co. of New York, Green Harvest, Mann, Mills Family Farm, Premium Fresh, Snoboy, The Farmer’s Market, Tanimura & Antle, President’s Choice, Cross Valley, and Riverside Farms. The affected products were also distributed to Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Iceland. FDA continues to investigate whether other companies and brands are involved.

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