WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday announced a potentially massive recall of foods made with a commonly used food additive that may be contaminated with salmonella.
The additive, hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP, is used in thousands of foods but so far has not been linked to any illness and currently presents a low risk to consumers, according to FDA officials.
But the agency isn’t taking any chances. It has asked food producers to check inventories for products that used recalled lots of HVP and has established a searchable consumer database for what it predicted would be a growing list of recalled foods.
To check if a food item has been recalled, go to www.foodsafety.gov/.
Only a few specific brands of chip dip, salad dressing, soup mixes and other foods have been recalled since the contamination was discovered last month, but “we expect this to get larger over the next several days to several weeks,” said Jeff Farrar, FDA associate commissioner of food safety.
The tainted HVP was made at a plant operated by Basic Food Flavors Inc. of Las Vegas and was discovered when a company customer tested a batch of the additive and reported finding salmonella.
FDA inspectors subsequently discovered salmonella bacteria on plant equipment. Basic Food subsequently announced a recall of all paste and powdered versions of HVP manufactured since Sept. 17, 2009.
Salmonella causes infections marked by diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. Healthy people generally recover without treatment, but salmonella can kill the very young, the elderly and people with weak immune systems.
Officials said the HVP was shipped in batches of 50 pounds or more but they didn’t know how much tainted product the company shipped. Farrar said most of the tainted additive would not be harmful because it was used in food preparation processes involving high heat or other procedures that would kill the salmonella bacteria.
Additionally, the ingredient, which is made of soy, corn and wheat, typically appears in very small quantities in individual food items.