Thursday, March 4, 2010
The FDA held a press conference this afternoon to announce what may amount to be one of the largest food recalls in years. The contaminated product is something called "hydrolyzed vegetable protein" (HVP), produced by Basic Food Flavors of Las Vegas, and contaminated with salmonella. The good news is that nobody has become ill yet from consuming the contaminated product. The bad news is that because HVP is commonly used as a flavor enhancer in all sorts of foods, the recall may ultimately affect thousands or tens of thousands of products. In terms of weight, that will be millions of pounds.
What products are involved? Well, according to the FDA, even figuring that out could take weeks. Because HVP is a basic ingredient in so many products, and because it is ultimately sold through a number of distributors and re-distributors, it can be complicated to trace all of the affected product to its final destinations. As they figure it out, regulators will be updating the official list of affected products, located here. Some of the foods that commonly include HVPs are: dips, spreads, soups, soup mixes, pre-packaged meals, chips and snack foods, and gluten-free variations of many foods. In other words, this stuff is everywhere. Even the recalled foods will only represent a small fraction of the fall-out from this ordeal, since many products with affected HVPs will not be recalled, since the production process or cooking instructions for those products are sufficient to kill the salmonella.
What's scary about the scale of this is that there's not much you can do as a consumer to keep yourself safe. It serves as a good reminder of how important it is to have good preventative measures in place, and how important it is to empower the FDA to enforce these measures. Which is why I'm not alone in hoping that this serves as a catalyst to finally get S. 510 to a vote in the Senate.
More from the Washington Post, here.