Blame the consumer, flour edition: 38 sick with E. coli O121 linked to General Mills

Amy was cooking some gluten-free pie shit the other night and she asked me what the temp should be – we have conversations like that in our family – and I said I’m not too concerned about the interior fruit filling, but make sure the pastry exterior hits 165F.

sifting_flour-chris_marchantThat was because of past outbreaks.

And now this.

General Mills is recalling about 10 million pounds of flour after an E. coli outbreak associated with flour sickened 38 people in 20 states.

Mike Hughlett of the Star Tribune reports the Golden Valley-based packaged food giant on Tuesday announced the voluntary recall of some lots of its signature Gold Medal flour, along with flour sold under the Wondra and Signature Kitchens brands. Signature Kitchens is a store brand sold at several major U.S. grocery chains including Safeway, Albertson’s, Jewel, Vons and Acme.

The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Tuesday there have been 10 hospitalizations associated with the outbreak, but no deaths have been reported.

The CDC has not yet released names of states affected by the recall, but the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed that three of the 38 people sickened lived in the Twin Cities area. All three — two adults and a child — have since recovered, and none were hospitalized, said Doug Schultz, a health department spokesman.

State and federal health authorities have been investigating an outbreak of E. coli O121 from Dec. 21 to May 3, General Mills said in a statement. The Minnesota health department said the Minnesota cases occurred in January and March.

The Centers for Disease Control found that about half of the 38 sickened people reported making homemade food with flour before becoming ill. Some reported using a General Mills brand of flour. Some also might have consumed raw dough or batter.

General Mills said it has not found E. coli O121 in any of its products or at its flour facilities, nor has it received any illness reports directly from consumers. The flour involved in the recall was mostly produced at General Mills’ Kansas City plant.

But Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills Baking division, did say, Consumers are reminded to not consume any raw products made with flour. Flour is an ingredient that comes from milling wheat, something grown outdoors that carries with it risks of bacteria which are rendered harmless by baking, frying or boiling. Consumers are reminded to wash their hands, work surfaces, and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw dough products or flour, and to never eat raw dough or batter.

“As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour.”

  • Katherine Wilson

    Its refreshing to see a company take responsibility for their products and food safety, and to take a step towards addressing an equally important concern; consumer ignorance. I wish more producers handled their recalls as such. Hopefully the incident will move forward swiftly, and the subsequent recall completed affectively; with all of poorly handled recalls out there, the industry could use a more recent model of how things should be handled.

    Hopefully further inquest will shed some light on what failed in this case, and give further guidance to the industry. I can only hope that transparency will be maintained, and the results are made swiftly public, so as the dry goods industry can learn from this without any casualties.

    On a side note, I was under the assumption that most flour in the US was irradiated, but being in Canada I have no idea what is actually on the American shelves.

  • JPBaley

    Nope, US flour is not irradiated. The US has had recalls before regarding pathogens found in flour and multiple illnesses were linked to eating raw dough. I do put a very small amount of blame on consumers who eat raw dough. Eating raw anything always carries a risk. The best facilities may not be able to 100% prevent pathogen contamination. There are too many avenues for contamination that even with the best HARCP plan can only reduce (significantly but not 100%). Where there is negligence, incompetance or intent, I put 100% blame on the responsible manufacturer/restaurant/distributor.

  • Mark

    “gluten-free pie shit”? Typo? 🙂