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More Recalls Due to Salmonella in Valley Milk Products

salmonellaAs reported earlier, environmental swabs collected during the FDA inspection (July-September 2016) of Valley Milk, confirmed the presence of Salmonella meleagridis on food contact surfaces (used after product pasteurization) of dry nonfat milk powder and buttermilk powder packaged in 40 and 50 pound bags.  
The powder milk and buttermilk from Valley Milk were not sold directly to consumers, but rather used as ingredients in a number of food products.  Numerous companies used Valley Milk powdered milk and buttermilk and consequently their products were recalled causing a ripple effect.   
FDA advised the companies that purchased Valley Milk products that they need to take action if they were using the recalled ingredients in ready-to-eat product where there was no FDA-recognized kill step or inactivation in their processing system. In the initial wave of recalls 8 companies were involved. As we all predicted, more companies are recalling their products due to Salmonella in Valley Milk products. It is interesting to note that some of the recalled products have been in the market for several months.  No illnesses have been reported due to the consumption of any of these products.

Second Wave of Recalls

ronsRon’s Home Style Foods, Inc. recalled Tropical Fruit Supreme, Pineapple Nut Delight, and Pistachio Crème. The products were distributed in Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma to foodservice distributors and retail supermarkets.  While Pistachio Crème does not contain the ingredient, it is made on the same production line as Tropical Fruit Supreme and Pineapple Nut Delight therefore the company recalled it as well.
Stonewall Kitchen recalled Stonewall Kitchen Cinnamon Apple, Orange Cranberry and Toasted stonewallCoconut and Pancake & Waffle Mixes.  Although no pathogenic bacteria were found in the powdered products supplied to Stonewall Kitchen by Valley Milk, nor in any of the Stonewall Kitchen pancake & waffle mixes themselves, the company decided to recall the products out of an abundance of caution.
New Hope Mills expended its 12/12/16 voluntary recall for one additional code of its New Hope Mills Crepe MIX.
old-dutchOld Dutch Foods Inc. of St. Paul, MN recalled a limited number of Flavored Potato Chip and Tortilla Chip products that were made with milk ingredients supplied by one of its secondary seasoning component suppliers  Valley Milk Products.
The product was distributed nationwide through grocery and other retail stores. Although no lab tests have confirmed the presence of Salmonella in these products and no illnesses have been reported, the company recalled these products in abundance of caution.
Poppies International, of Battleboro, NC recalled all products that were made with custard powder containing affected milk ingredients supplied by a secondary supplier, Valley Milk Products. Again no Salmonella was found in any of the ingredients or products. The products included in the recall were sold through retail stores.
williamsWilliams-Sonoma of San Francisco, CA recalled limited quantities of Williams-Sonoma Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Quick Bread due to the powdered milk product supplied by Valley Milk. The products were shipped to Williams-Sonoma retail stores nationwide from August 2016-present. 
Houdini Inc. of Fullerton, CA recalled limited quantities of Blue Cheese Savory Twists, 7 oz box. Valley Milk supplied the powdered buttermilk used to make the Blue Cheese seasoning in these products by Savory Twist seasoning supplier.  Pathogens were not found in Blue Cheese Savory Twists themselves.
A limited quantity of products were distributed nationwide to consumers through Houdini Inc.’s direct to consumer division Wine Country Gift Baskets (catalog / internet) and Houdini Inc’s wholesale division. This recall only affects the 7oz Blue Cheese Savory Twist in gift baskets shipped or sold in stores from September 1, 2016 to December 12, 2016.
H-E-B  San Antonio, TX – In cooperation with Dawn Food Products, announced that it has issued a voluntary recall for certain bakery products made with Valley Milk Products. The products were made in stores with Valley Milk High Heat Nonfat Dry Milk Powder, supplied by Dawn Foods. The recall affects product sold in H-E-B and Mi Tienda in-store bakeries in Texas and Mexico.  
snyderSnyder of Berlin, PA recalled Buffalo Blue Kettle Cooked Potato Chips, after being notified by their supplier that milk powder used within a spice blend ingredient may contain Salmonella. The recalled product was distributed only in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Maryland, New York, and Tennessee.


This incident raises a number of questions:
  1. It is interesting to note that at least some of the recalled products were in commerce for several months before the recall with no single report of illness due to the consumption of the products. Therefore, one should pose the question if the products were contaminated in the first place.
  1. A number of users’ laboratories tested the products and did not recover any pathogens. Were the products contaminated? If they were why so many laboratories failed to detect it?
  1. Why did it take almost 5 months to issue a recall? If the products were indeed dangerous to the public, the recall time frame was very long.
I would welcome your comments.



  Dear friends, Season’s greetings!  We would like to express our sincere gratitude for all of you who have joined us.  Happy Holidays and may 2017 be a safe and prosperous year. Wishing you success and happiness in 2017   happy-new-year-2017

Multiple Product Recall Due to Salmonella in Suppliers Milk and Buttermilk Powders


The Origin

recalledThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on November 30 that the U.S. Marshals Service seized more than 4 million pounds of product produced by Valley Milk Products LLC (Valley Milk) of Strasburg, Virginia. The U.S. Department of Justice filed the complaint, on behalf of the FDA, in the U.S. District Court for the Virginia Western District, alleging that the seized products are adulterated.   The seized products include dry nonfat milk powder and buttermilk powder packaged in 40- and 50-pound bags for further manufacturing and are worth nearly $4 million. During an FDA inspection of Valley Milk from July – September 2016, the FDA investigators observed poor sanitary practices and saw in the company’s records positive results for Salmonella in the plant’s internal environmental and finished product samples. Environmental swabs collected during the inspection confirmed the presence of Salmonella meleagridis on food contact surfaces used after product pasteurization.   “The FDA urged Valley Milk to conduct a voluntary recall of the implicated products” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The firm refused to recall and, as a result, we have had to intervene and seize this adulterated food to prevent it from reaching consumers who could be exposed to Salmonella from these products.”   Eventually, on December 9, 2016 the FDA announced that the company recalled limited amounts of this product due to potential Salmonella contamination. The contamination was discovered at the manufacturing facility but not in tested finished product.   None of the recalled finished product tested positive for Salmonella but environmental sampling performed by the FDA was positive for Salmonella. Valley Milk is currently investigating the cause for the positive environmental samples.

The Ripple Effect

The powder milk and buttermilk from Valley Milk are not sold directly to consumers, but rather used as an ingredient in a number of food products.  Numerous companies used Valley MILK powdered milk and buttermilk and consequently their products were recalled causing a ripple effect.   FDA advised the companies that purchased Valley Milk products that they need to take action if they are using the recalled ingredients in ready-to-eat product where there is no FDA-recognized kill step or inactivation in their processing system. As a result, in the past few days, several different food manufacturers have voluntarily recalled their products.   No illnesses have been reported due to the consumption of any of these products.

Companies involved in secondary recalls

Shearer’s Foods, LLC – kettle chips, potato chips, and nacho chips

nacho-cheeseFDA reported that Shearer’s Foods, initiated a recall after being notified on 12/7/16 by Valley Milk. Their seasoning contained the recalled milk powder and sweet cream buttermilk powder.   The company recalled a variety of Kettle Chip, and Nacho Cheese, Nacho Tortilla chips, etc. These products had been distributed nationwide.

Deep River Snacks – kettle chips

kettle-chipsDeep River Snacks issued a voluntary recall on December 10 for certain Sour Cream & Onion Kettle Chips after being informed by a tertiary ingredient supplier that the buttermilk powder used in the seasoning may contain traces of Salmonella(source FDA).   “The health and safety of our consumers is always our top priority,” said Jim Goldberg, Deep River Snacks’ founder and CEO. “Although we haven’t found any contaminants in either our seasonings or our finished products, we are taking great precautions to protect our customers.”

TreeHouse Foods, Inc. – macaroni and cheese

macaroni-cheeseTreeHouse Foods, Inc. announced on December 12 a voluntary recall of certain macaroni and cheese cup products containing cheddar cheese seasoning which may be have been contaminated with Salmonella (source: FDA) due to the Valley Milk product.   TreeHouse Foods, Inc. manufactures packaged foods and beverages with more than 50 manufacturing facilities across the United States, Canada and Italy that focuses primarily on private label products in retail groceries.

New Hope Mills – crepe mix

crepe-mixOn December 12 NEW HOPE MILLS announced a voluntarily recall of limited quantities of their  Crepe MIX due to the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, because of Valley Milk, the supplier of the bulk milk powder (source:FDA).  Although no pathogenic bacteria have been found in the powdered milk product supplied to New Hope Mills, the company had decided out of an abundance of caution to recall the product produced from the specific lot received from their ingredient supplier. The affected New Hope Mills Crepe MIX was shipped to distributors and retailers in the New York and Pennsylvania areas.

Fourth Street Barbecue Inc. – macaroni and cheese

mac-cheese-2On December 12 Fourth Street Barbecue Inc., Packing Division, initiated voluntary recall of Cheese Club Express Mac & Cheese 4 cup dinner and Double Takes Macaroni & Cheese 2 cup dinner, due to possible contamination with Salmonella. The powdered cheese packets may had been impacted by milk powder ingredients recalled by Valley Milk Products (source: FDA).   Product was distributed nationwide through retail stores. No illnesses have been reported to date. 

Brand Castle, LLC – monkey bread mix

monkeybreadOn December 12 Brand Castle LLC voluntarily recalled limited quantities of their The Mix® Monkey Bread Mix because it had the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella( FDA ) . This is again due to Valley Milk Products buttermilk powder.     Affected product was sold to a single retailer in the following states: AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, IN, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI. 168 cases of product (i.e., 1008 units) are affected by this recall.   To date, there have been no reported illnesses, and no Salmonella has been found in the recalled lots of buttermilk powder used in the product. 

Additional Recalls are likely to come

There are additional products being recalled due to the supplier of milk powder, such as Publix premium pancakes (source:FDA ). While Valley Milk is not mentioned, it is likely the reason for the recall.   Just today (FDA) Old Dutch Foods Inc. announced voluntarily recalling a limited number of Flavored Potato Chip and Tortilla Chip products that were made with milk ingredients supplied by one of its’ secondary seasoning component suppliers  Valley Milk.   It is quite likely that more recalls will be issued in the near future, as more products will be found that use the Valley Milk powders.

Crowdsourcing and Food Safety




Crowdsourcing is defined as taking a job that is traditionally performed in an organization by employees and outsourcing it to a crowd of undefined network of people (non-employees) in the form of an open call. The crowdsourcing participants can be from anywhere, with all backgrounds, as long as they have Internet connection. The use of crowdsourcing is increasing rapidly and had been used in idea generation, wikies, open source software citizen reporters or journalism, citizen science, disaster management.
Crowdsourcing utilization in food projects has increased rapidly where companies have for example encouraged consumers to vote for new flavors, colors, names, better design, etc. More recently crowdsourcing was extended to crowdfunding and numerous startups were able to raise sufficient funds to jumpstart their operations. However, the utilization of crowdsourcing in food quality and safety is missing. (Definition supplied by Prof. (Emer.) Sam Saguy (
Crowd sourcing can also be defined as “obtain information or input into a particular task or project by enlisting the services of a number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet.”  The use of crowdsourcing is increasing rapidly are you using it?
crowrdsourcing-f1 The BioExpert site is an example of crowdsourcing in the food safety arena. The participant (crowd) is selected from food safety professionals.
I received the following request from Dr. Jan Mei Soon – and Prof. (Emer.) Sam Saguy –
Re: Crowdsourcing Questionnaire Food Quality and Safety
Dear Colleague,
We (Jan Mei Soon – and Sam Saguy – are preparing a paper on the possible utilization of Crowdsourcing* (see below) focusing on specific possible applications of this unique recent evolving approach for food quality and safety. We hereby would welcome and be most appreciating if you could share with us from your own experience and knowledge how this fascinating emerging tool is or will be used and kindly fulfil the questionnaire below. Also ideas are also most welcome. Even if you are not using this technology to day, it would be most helpful if you can share with us your vision on how and/or where it could be applied. If you would like to share with us your name and e-mail we would most definitely communicate with you to express our appreciation and also to elaborate on some of the points you furnished. Thanking you in advance Dr. Jan Mei Soon and Prof. (Emer.) Sam Saguy
The questionnaire below is very simple; please take a minute to reply, and send the answers directly to Dr. Jan Mei Soon – and Prof. (Emer.) Sam Saguy –  

Crowdsourcing Questionnaire Food Quality and Safety

  1. Do you crowdsource (see definition above) for food safety or quality ideas and solutions?
If not:
  • Can you briefly explain why not?
  • Can you envision where and how it could be applied for food quality and/or safety
  • Do you have estimation on the time and/or tools required for implementation?
If yes:
  • What type of crowdsourcing practices do you use?
  • Why do you use crowdsourcing?
  • Are there any specific benefits?
  • Are there any specific drawbacks?
  • Can you describe specific example (s)?
  • Can you estimate the typical time or the duration?
  1. Any additional points to share?
  We would love to get your opinion, comments on this novel concept and its utilization in food safety.

FDA Erroneous Warning Costs Tomato Growers $15 Millions – Court Rules: FDA is Not Liable

tomato1 On December 2, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FDA could not be held financially liable for issuing the false warning.  It is clear now that the FDA warning did not help customers who stopped buying perfectly healthy tomatoes, and continued to buy the contaminated hot peppers. This decision was devastating to the tomato growers. The demand for tomatoes plummeted by 40% due to the warnings, and prices fell by 50%. The tomato industry lost millions of dollars.

Case History

As part of the ruling judge Wilkinson described the detailed history of the case: “On May 22, 2008, the New Mexico Department of Health notified the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a number of local residents had been infected with Salmonella Saintpaul. Similar reports soon arrived at CDC from Texas.   After interviewing patients, the CDC discovered a “strong statistical association” between the infections and eating raw tomatoes. This observation was supported by a “historical association” between salmonella and tomatoes. The CDC subsequently notified the FDA that tomatoes were the “leading hypothesis” for the source of the outbreak.   On June 7 2008, FDA issued an updated contamination warning titled, “FDA Warns Consumers Nationwide Not to Eat Certain Types of Raw Red Tomatoes.”  At the time, Salmonella Saintpaul was linked to 1,220 infections across forty-two states and the District of Columbia, as Seaside Farm and other growers were harvesting a large crop of tomatoes.   Over the next month the CDC accumulated enough data to link Salmonella Saintpaul to jalapeño and serrano peppers imported from Mexico. Consequently the FDA withdrew the contamination warning  and announced that fresh tomatoes were no longer associated with the outbreak.   Seaside harvested a crop of tomatoes in South Carolina while the Salmonella Saintpaul contamination warning was in effect. By the time the agency admitted its error on July 17, the case had been amplified into the largest foodborne outbreak in the United States in more than a decade. The FDA incorrect warning costed producer millions and turned good tomatoes into waste.   On May 18 2011, Seaside brought suit against the United States under the FTCA (Federal Tort Claims Act) alleging that the FDA negligently issued the contamination warning and impaired the value of Seaside’s crop by $15,036,293.95. The FDA was accused that they had no confirmation of a link between the outbreak of Salmonella and their tomatoes, and that the analysis done was flawed.   On December 15 2015, the district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court reasoned that the FDA had broad discretion to warn the public about a contaminated food supply, and that Seaside failed to allege any statute, regulation, or policy that required the FDA to proceed in a particular manner. The district court also acknowledged that contamination warnings were due to competing policy considerations of protecting the public from serious health risks and minimizing any adverse economic impact on associated industries.

The Ruling

The 4th Circuit agreed with the trial court that the FDA was acting within its authority to issue emergency food safety warnings based on preliminary information in order to protect public health. Turning down the $15 million claim from Seaside Farm, South Carolina   “We refuse to place FDA between a rock and a hard place,” wrote Judge Wilkinson for the panel, sitting in Richmond. “One the one hand, if FDA issued a contamination warning that was even arguably over broad, premature, or of anything less than perfect accuracy, injured companies would plague the agency with lawsuits,” the judge said. “On the other hand, delay in issuing a contamination warning would lead to massive tort liability with respect to consumers who suffer serious or even fatal consequences that a timely warning might have averted,” Wilkinson said.

Questions to be asked

When government agencies like the FDA send an erroneous warning, as clearly happen in this case, and the action caused losses of millions of dollars to the growers, should there be a remedy against the agency? Should anyone be accountable for such losses? Should there be a compensation mechanism?   If there is a remedy against the agency, will it prevent the agency from issuing warnings before all facts are known, and endanger the public?