Bakers Journal

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General Mills extends flour recall in U.S.


July 26, 2016
By Doug Picklyk

Minneapolis, Minn. – In a company release General Mills has announced that due to four new confirmed illnesses, the company is adding additional flour production dates to its previously announced U.S. retail flour recall, originally announced on May 31, 2016.

In the release, the company states that the illnesses reported to health officials are connected with consumers who ate or handled uncooked dough or ate uncooked batter made with raw flour. General Mills says that no illnesses have been connected with flour that has been properly baked, cooked or handled.

The extended recall is the result of the company conducting flour testing and new information from health officials who are using new whole genome sequencing techniques to trace illnesses. The release states that E.coli (several sub-types) has been detected in a small number of the company’s flour samples and some have been linked to new patient illnesses that fell outside of the previously recalled dates.

The company says that, at this time, it is unknown if they are experiencing a higher prevalence of E.coli in flour than normal, if the issue is isolated to General Mills’ flour, or if this is an issue across the flour industry. The release states that the newer detection and genome sequencing tools are also possibly making a connection to flour that may have always existed at these levels. 

General Mills president and COO Jeff Harmening is quoted, saying: “As a leader in flour production for 150 years, General Mills is committed to convening experts to work with government officials to learn more and create new protocols, if needed. Most importantly, we want all the avid home bakers out there to have peace of mind and know the most important thing they can do to keep safe is to not eat uncooked flour.”

The company lists three things that must happen for a severe E. coli illness to occur:

1. The flour a consumer is using has to contain the rare sub-types of E. coli that can make people sick.
2. A consumer has to eat raw dough, batter or other uncooked food made with the flour, or handle the raw dough and not wash their hands.
3. A consumers’ individual health characteristics will impact if they get sick and how severely. Some consumers have mild symptoms and others get very sick. It is not always known who will get sick and who will not.

The initial flour recall production dates ranged from November 4, 2015 through December 4, 2015. Now those dates have been extended to production through February 10, 2016. It does apply only to specific products and date codes. The entire list can be found here.