FDA Report on Yogurt Finds Earlier Problem

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

December 9, 2013

Chobani and Idaho state officials knew at least two months before Chobani voluntarily recalled 35 varieties of Greek yogurt because of mold that there was a problem with a yeast-like growth in the company's yogurt, according to an inspection report released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week. Officials in Idaho, where the yogurt is produced, dispute that.

The company also vouched on its Facebook page for the safety of products with expiration dates after Oct. 8?the last recall date. Some of those later developed bulging lids, the report said. More than 300 consumers, including some in Wisconsin, complained to the FDA about gastrointestinal problems after eating the yogurt.

Still, government officials given the task of assessing whether the scope of the recall was adequate didn't ask Chobani to expand the recall. The news didn't sit well with consumers Friday.

"It was bad enough that some people suffered. It could have been prevented," said Emily Duchac of Fond du Lac, WI, who complained to Chobani, saying her 1-year-old son fell ill after eating the yogurt. "It shows that Chobani was aware of a problem and released batches of bad yogurt anyway. Had they done the right thing and taken appropriate action when they knew they had a problem, my son and many others would have never suffered from illness after ingesting the contaminated yogurt."

The FDA report, based on inspections Sept. 5-18, states that a lab technician discovered "surface defects" in samples in July and that testing was done for "a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples." The state informed Chobani, which assumed it was a yeast problem and cleaned the equipment at the Twin Falls production facility. This reduced problems but didn't stop them, the report said. Subsequent tests found Mucor circinelloides mold.

Pamela L. Juker, a spokeswoman from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA), said the FDA report "incorrectly" characterized the product samples that the state took.

"No finished product samples from the Chobani that were submitted for testing to the ISDA dairy lab have ever been observed to be abnormal or contain 'surface defects,'"she said in an email. The ISDA is authorized to test yogurt only for coliform bacteria, not mold. Coliform test results, released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel under a public information request, were negative.

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