UPDATE: On Thursday, FDA spokeswoman Tamara Ward confirmed that the number of illness complaints allegedly stemming from tainted Chobani products had risen to 118. A spokesperson for Chobani reported that 95 percent of the affected yogurt products had been destroyed.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Monday that it has received more than 89 complaints from people reporting they got sick from Chobani yogurts tainted by mold, with symptoms including nausea and cramps.
FDA spokeswoman Tamara Ward told the Twin Falls Times-News that no cases had yet been confirmed but Chobani was cooperating with the agency to expedite the recall. Chobani, which initially moved to quietly pull 35 flavors of affected yogurt cups from store shelves early last week, telling customers they had made a “voluntary” decision to rectify “isolated quality concerns” and would not be recalling any products, reversed course last week and issued an official recall.
Chobani has since identified affected products as those bearing the code 16-012, with expiration dates between 9/11/2013 and 10/7/2013. Here’s how to tell if your Chobani products are affected by the recall:
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Many customers who filed complaints said they had purchased yogurt cups that appeared swollen or bloated. In a post on its official Facebook page, Chobani originally addressed the issue by saying, “There is nothing more important to us than the quality of our products. We're currently in the process of voluntarily removing some from shelves that simply weren't up to snuff.”
In an update on its blog on Sept. 6, the privately held New York-based company said that through “extensive testing” it had identified the culprit as Mucor circinelloides, “a mold commonly found in the dairy environment.” Chobani maintains that the mold is not dangerous to most customers, but it acknowledged in a statement that “the mold can act as an opportunistic pathogen for those with compromised immune systems.”
The company cited a press release authored by a Cornell University professor of food science, stating: “Mucor circinelloides is a species of mold commonly associated with fruits, vegetables and dairy that has been reported to cause spoilage like swelling and bloating in yogurt. It is not considered a disease-causing food-borne microorganism.”
Randy Worobo, the professor at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, added, “This mold should not pose a health risk to most consumers. Very rarely, it can act as an opportunistic pathogen, but not through food and usually only for people with compromised immune systems through inhalation. The organism is regularly used for the production of natural flavor compounds that are widely used in the food industry.”
In the meantime, Chobani’s rival Yoplait has wasted little time urging disgruntled customers to instead try their products. On Thursday, Yoplait tweeted, “Now’s the time to try NEW delicious Yoplait Greek,” and later, “Delicious, strained Greek yogurt isn’t hard to find. Try the new Yoplait Greek.”