HVP Recall is a Sign FDA Needs More Regulatory Power, Officials Say

FDA officials say that a string food recalls due to a vegetable protein contaminated with salmonella highlight the need for congress to give the agency more power to prevent food poisoning outbreaks

In an FDA news release about the ongoing recall of products using hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) from Basic Food Flavors, Inc., agency officials say that they could have prevented the HVP recall if they had more enforcement and prevention authority. The vegetable protein recall, which has resulted in a wide variety of food recalls in the last two weeks, came after one Basic Food Flavors, Inc. customer reported to FDA that they had received HVP contaminated with Salmonella Tennessee.

“This situation clearly underscores the need for new food safety legislation to equip FDA with the tools we need to prevent contamination,” Dr. Jeff Farrar, associate commissioner for food protection in FDA’s Office for Foods, said in the press release. FDA officials repeatedly pressed home the link between the recalls and the need for more FDA authority in a phone conference with reporters this week as well, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Food safety legislation has been introduced in Congress, but the Senate version of the bill has stalled. FDA officials and supporters of the legislation say that the bill would give the agency the power to force companies to recall products, keep better records and increase the number of food manufacturing inspections the FDA can perform.

Over the last two weeks the FDA has announced recalls for a variety of products that used Basic Food Flavors HVP, including T. Marzetti vegetable dips, Castella Chicken Soup, Homemade Gourmet Tortilla Soup Mix, and various products by Tim’s Cascade Snacks and Earth Island’s “Follow Your Heart” products. All of the recalls stated that they were being pulled due to fears of salmonella food poisoning from HVP.

HVP is similar to monosodium glutamate (MSG), except that it is a liquid instead of a salt. It is used as a flavor enhancer in many foods. Basic Food Flavors, Inc. has not issued a specific release giving the details of the recall, instead publishing a complex list of product codes affected by the HVP recall on its website with no explanation.

Salmonella is a type of bacteria that attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing mild to severe food poisoning. For most healthy adults, symptoms of food poisoning from salmonella typically resolve after a few days or weeks. However, young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems have an increased risk of suffering severe food poisoning after ingesting the bacteria. If not properly treated, some cases of salmonella food poisoning can lead to hospitalization, dehydration or death.

Salmonella Tennessee is a rare strain of salmonella, known primarily for being the strain that caused the February 2007 peanut butter recall.

A full list of products affected by this recall is available here.

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