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HVP recall continues – but far smaller than feared

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 03-May-2010
Last updated on 07-May-2010 at 17:15 GMT

Two more products have been recalled due to the possibility that they may contain salmonella-tainted hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) from Basic Food Flavors – but fears of a large-scale recall have proved unfounded.

At the beginning of March, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials said they had found salmonella on equipment at Basic Food Flavors’ Las Vegas, Nevada facility. A customer had alerted the agency after it reported salmonella contamination of the company’s HVP through the FDA’s Reportable Food Registry. Due to the ingredient’s ubiquity and its complex supply chain, the resulting recall was widely expected to balloon over the next few weeks or months.

HVP is a common flavor enhancer used in thousands of food products, including soups, sauces, frozen dinners, cheese, hotdogs, dips and seasoned snacks.

MiDAS Foods International is the latest company to add products to the recall list, with its Instant Beef Soup dry mix and Instant Beef Stroganoff sauce mix, which were sold to food manufacturers in Florida and Tennessee. However, the two products are the first to be recalled since April 1, when 177 products were on the list.

Early predictions

Immediately following the recall, associate commissioner for food protection at the FDA Jeffrey Farrar said in a conference call with reporters that the agency could not be sure how big the recall would become, but that it had the potential to be very large.

He said: “The manufacturer had many first level consignees who obviously had individuals and firms who they sold to who sold to other firms. We expect this to get larger over the next several days to actually maybe several weeks.”

And when Basic Food Flavors finally broke its media silence two weeks later, the company’s sales and marketing manager David Wood told FoodNavigator-USA.com that the potential size of the recall was “beyond comprehension”.

‘Risk-based approach’

Nevertheless, a large-scale recall has still not occurred. According to food safety experts, one of the reasons for this is that instead of recalling all foods containing the potentially tainted HVP, the FDA instigated a “risk-based approach”.

At the March 4 press conference, Farrar said: “We are not asking firms to recall product that may have been produced with this HVP product if it received a validated kill step.”

And most products containing HVP do undergo such a step, as they are cooked at high temperature. Therefore, the recall has been restricted to foods that were not cooked after the flavor enhancer was added, and those that are unlikely to be cooked by consumers at home, such as ready-to-eat seasoned snacks and dips.

At 179 products, the recall is still large, but nowhere near as big as others in recent years. Last year’s peanut product recall, for example, led to more than 3,900 products being withdrawn, and salmonella-tainted pistachios led to the recall of 664 products, also last year.

The recalled dry instant beef soup mix produced by MiDAS Foods International/American Saucery is packaged in brown cardboard cases bearing the code AS493060 and with a manufacturing date of March 10, 2010.

The dry beef stroganoff mix produced by MiDAS Foods International/American Saucery is packaged in brown cardboard cases bearing the code AS605010 and with a manufacturing date of January 21, 2010.

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