Chobani Inc., the popular American manufacturer of Greek-style yogurt, said on Friday that the recall of some of its yogurt cups was caused by a mold known as Mucor circinelloides, and not by salmonella or E. coli.
In an update on its blog on Friday afternoon, the privately held Chobani said it had conducted extensive testing and consulted experts, who identified the mold that had tainted yogurt cups as Mucor circinelloides, “a mold commonly found in the dairy environment.” It also maintained the mold was not dangerous to most customers.
Chobani cited a press release from Cornell University’s media relations office that stated: “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 foodborne microorganism.”
Randy Worobo, a professor of food Science at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said in the release: “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.”
The Chobani update came a week after the company voluntarily removed yogurt cups affected by “selling or bloating” from supermarkets across the U.S. Chobani initially said the move was prompted by “isolated quality concerns,” reassuring customers that it was not a recall, but, in fact, the firm later followed it up with an official recall.
“We didn’t recall any of our products. We’re voluntarily swapping out products that didn’t meet our rigid standards,” the company responded to one Twitter user who wrote last week that she was “totally disturbed by this Chobani recall.”
New info: we've ID'ed mold in recalled product as Mucor circinelloides. Please find more here, updated in real time:
http://t.co/JU9DqsVP8N â€” Chobani (@Chobani)
According to Food Safety News, Chobani removed the products after receiving complaints from customers who reported purchasing sour, foul-smelling Chobani products, which some claimed had sickened them. Although the company originally took the flawed yogurt cups off store shelves without disclosing to customers which specific products were flawed, it has since identified recalled products as those bearing the code 16-012, with expiration dates between 9/11/2013 and 10/7/2013.
Chobani’s founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, has also published an apology message to customers on the front of the company’s website, that begins, “I’m sorry we let you down,” and urges customers with affected products to either submit complaint forms to the website or contact customer service at email@example.com for replacement codes or refunds.