Food Contamination: Reincarnation or Reconditioning?

By: Saira Malhotra

This month, MSNBC reported on another factory that came under inspection after it supplied schools and a baby food manufacturer with repackaged apple sauce laced with potentially hazardous mold. Snokist Growers of Yakina Washington received a written warning from the FDA which threw its food safety measures in doubt after it continued to use molded apples in it's canned products.

Snokist is no stranger to being under the watchful of eye of interrogation as they were in a similar place back in June of this year when 9 children fell sick after eating apple sauce. Health inspectors found bags of fruit products that were unsealed and displayed a myriad of colorful mold. Some of these bags were reported to be swollen and fermented. Whether molded or fermented, their destiny was to be heat-treated and packaged in a can and ultimately find themselves in the belly of some minor.

Despite warnings and 6 steps for implementation by the FDA, little had been done and here they are within a few months, making the same mistakes and only implementing 2 of the 6 steps. According to company spokeswoman, Tina Moss, "If rework occurs, our thermal process is more than adequate to render the product commercially sterile". However, the FDA questions the adequacy of testing performed by the company and needs to be convinced that other harmful microbes are being tested for, in addition they are also concerned that "Most mycotoxins are stable compounds that are not destroyed by heat treatment".

For many, the discovery that what they are eating may be reconditioned is shocking. However, reconditioning food is in full swing in the industry and permissible by the FDA, provided it is free of contamination. It can occur in less frightening ways by pulverizing irregular shaped pasta in to semolina flour or combining a batch of fruit flavored ice cream that doesn't meet the specification with chocolate to avoid discarding it all together. Things start to get hairy when products detected with salmonella such as HVP, are reconditioned.

The FDA has established Defect Action Levels. But yet again, you may squeal as there are a number of items that make it in to your canned, boxed or bagged product, such as insect fragments, rodent hairs, and maggots. Even a certain percentage of molding is acceptable. While feeling squeamish is an appropriate reaction, it should be known that most of the products we use on a daily basis will have a story like this behind its pretty face.

Photo: stevendepolo

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