Massive Flour Recall Issued Over E. Coli Risk Impacts Gold Medal, Other General Mills Brands
General Mills has issued a massive recall impacting 10 million pounds of flour sold under the Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens and other brand names, after a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O121 food poisoning has been linked to the products.
The General Mills flour recall was announced on May 31, after U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) traceback investigations and interviews with sickened consumers identified the homemade products that involved the use of flour as a likely source of the outbreak, which has sickened at least 38 individuals in 20 different states. To date, at least 10 of the food poisoning cases resulted in hospitalization.
The recalled flour products may be contaminated with E. coli O121, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal illnesses, especially among children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune systems. E. coli infections may also cause pregnancy complications for women.
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Although most E. coli bacteria cause mild bowel irritation and flu-like symptoms, some forms, including E. coli O121, can be extremely harmful and cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration that can be extremely harmful to those with weakened immune systems. In severe cases, when E. coli O121 is left untreated, it can result in hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can lead to renal (kidney) failure for all age ranges infected.
The massive General Mills flour recall includes many of the most common household brands such as Gold Medal and Signature Kitchens flour products. Specifically the recall includes 13.5 ounce Gold Medal Wondra Flour, 2 pound Gold Medal All Purpose Flour, 2 pound Gold Medal Self-Rising Flour, 10 pound Gold Medal All Purpose Flour, 5 pound Gold Medal All Purpose Flour, 5 pound Gold Medal Unbleached Flour, 10 pound Gold Medal All Purpose Flour- Branded Pack, 5 pound Signature Kitchens All Purpose Flour Enriched Bleach, and 5 pound Signature Kitchens Unbleached Flour All Purpose Enriched.
The recalled 10 million pounds of General Mills flour products were produced at the Kansas City, Missouri facility and were sold with various UPC codes and “Better if Used by Dates” that can be found on the FDA’s recall notice.
The Gold Medal, Wondra, and Signature Kitchens flour brands were sold across the U.S. at Safeway, Albertsons, Jewel, Shaws, Vons, United, Randalls, and Acme stores. All store owners and customers are being asked to check their inventory and pantries to verify if any recalled products are remaining.
According to the CDC outbreak page, reports the illness onset date began on December 21, 2015 and received its most recent illness report on May 3, 2016. The agency is anticipating more reports to surface once the public becomes more aware of the outbreak. Illnesses are typically reported between two to three weeks following their onset due to the time it takes for an individual to be diagnosed and relay the incident to officials.
Although investigations by the CDC and the FDA have not been able to find any trace of the E. coli O121 infection in the General Mills flour products or the flour manufacturing facility, more than half of sickened consumers reported cooking homemade meals with flour based products, in which some reported using General Mills flour products.
The FDA is warning not to use any of the recalled products or consumer and foods that were prepared using the flour. If in doubt about whether a product is impacted by the flour recall, health officials are urging consumers to discard it. When handling flour products, consumer should always be cautious not to consume raw products as the ingredients are grown outdoors and carry risks of bacterial contamination that are intended to be killed off when cooking.
General Mills is asking consumers to throw away any remaining recalled products and to contact the company’s Consumer Relations team at 800-230-8103 for additional questions and requests for a replacement flour product. According to the FDA, the investigation is still ongoing and updates will be provided as further progress is made.
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