This is whey unfair

Wednesday, 01 August, 2018

This is whey unfair

Contaminated whey powder in the US is causing a flurry of recalls across the nation.

Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) has issued a voluntary recall of its dry whey powder after samples of the powder in the company’s standard test-and-hold protocol tested positive for Salmonella after the initial testing was negative.

This proactive, precautionary recall is a responsible response to a genuine public safety concern. But is it fair on the businesses that incorporated the whey in their products, or for that matter, the general public?

AMPI only sells to food manufacturers, not the public, so its clients are considered to be “confidential corporate information”, according to the FDA. This means that the general public has no idea which companies used the whey powder, how much product is being recalled and how many foods will ultimately be recalled.

There has already been a number of recalls:

  • Four types of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers that had been seasoned with whey powder.
  • Pinnacle Foods Hungry Man Chipotle BBQ Sauced Boneless Chicken Wyngz frozen microwavable dinners.
  • Mondelēz Global Ritz Cracker Sandwiches and other Ritz Bits products.
  • Flowers Foods Swiss rolls sold under the brand names Mrs. Freshley’s, Food Lion, H-E-B, Baker’s Treat, Market Square and Great Value.
  • Flowers Foods Captain John Derst’s Old Fashioned Bread.

But the FDA has prophesised that there may be additional recalls of other food products as the investigation uncovers other companies that have used the suspect whey powder.

According to an AMPI spokesperson, “AMPI staff personally contacted each affected customer organisation” about the potential contamination and subsequent recall. However, AMPI also admits that the whey is sold both directly to manufacturers and also distributed by brokers. Has the company contacted the brokers’ clients or just the brokers?

Can the general public be confident that every product that has included the suspect whey has been identified and recalled?

Is it fair that AMPI can hide behind “confidential corporate information” to effectively keep its name out of the public eye for the recall and to prevent the public knowing which companies may have used the product?

Recalls damage companies and brands — those companies that have recalled product will suffer at least a degree of backlash as consumers remember the brand name as one to avoid in the future. These companies, which undoubtedly received negative Salmonella confirmation on their whey product data sheet, will be the ones carrying the burden of the recall, not AMPI.

To date there have been no illnesses attributed to this recall and AMPI has ceased production at its dry whey plant, is investigating the cause for the positive samples and will take all necessary remedial actions, but is this good enough?

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