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Unilever recalls 10m tainted slimming drinks

By Rory Harrington , 07-Dec-2009

Unilever has recalled an estimated 10 million cans of its Slim-Fast ready-to-drink (RTD) products in North America on fears they could be infected with a bug that causes diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.

The food giant said all flavours of the canned slimming beverage could be tainted with the micro-organism Bacillus cereus, as it issued nationwide voluntary recalls across both the United States and Canada.

The probability of serious adverse health consequences is remote,” said a company statement.

The products are packaged in paperboard cartons and contain four, six or 12 steel cans that are 11 fl oz (325 ml) each. Unilever added that the affected products were also sold as individual cans at certain outlets.

A Unilever spokesman told FoodProductionDaily.com the recall would not affect Europe.

Food safety investigation

Unilever said it was working with the US Food and Drug Administration, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said it would be “conducting a food safety investigation and monitoring the effectiveness of the recall”.

Food contaminated with Bacillus cereus may not look or smell spoiled, said the CFIA. The symptoms of food poisoning with the bug can include vomiting or diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and pain, which may occur between 30 minutes and 15 hours after consuming the contaminated product.

The firm raised the alarm “out of an abundance of caution” after its testing procedures identified a possible problem. The recall was issued for all RTD products in distribution centres, shops and homes. Unilever said it was working to identify and correct the problem, and would resume production when this was completed.

A company spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal there was no immediately available figure on the cost of the recall, how long it would take or how much in revenue the product contributes to Unilever's total sales.

Consumers have been advised to dispose of the product and contact the company for a refund although Unilver said it was not able to comment on whether affected customers would receive further compensation.

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