NEW YORK -- General Mills is recalling about 10 million pounds of its flour over a possible link to an E. coli outbreak in 20 states.
The recall is for several varieties of Gold Medal and Signature Kitchens flour that were sold at Safeway, Albertsons and other supermarkets. General Mills said E. coli hasn't been found in any of its flour products, but is still recalling them out of "an abundance of caution."
The company said Tuesday 38 people were sickened from mid-December through May 3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that half of the people used flour before getting sick, some of which was a General Mills Inc. brand. Some may have also eaten raw dough or batter, the Minneapolis food company said.
"While have not found any presence of E. coli O121 in any General Mills flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility, and we have not been contacted directly by any consumer reporting confirmed illnesses related to these products, we want to take an active part in helping to prevent food borne illnesses," the company said in a statement.
General Mills said customers should not eat raw dough or batter, and the bacteria found in raw flour is eliminated when cooked. It also said customers should wash their hands and work surfaces after contact with raw dough or flour.
The strain of E. coli that may be linked to flour can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration, the company said.
The recall affects the following retail flour products that could be currently in stores or in consumers' pantries. It includes six SKUs (stock keeping units or UPC codes) of Gold Medal flour, 2 SKU's of Signature Kitchens flour and 1 SKU of Gold Medal Wondra flour.
CBS affiliate KCTV detailed some helpful safety tips related to flour:
- Flour comes from milling wheat, grown outdoors where bacteria are often present. Flour is a raw ingredient that is intended to be cooked or baked. While it is rare for individuals to get sick from flour, it is possible.
- Raw dough or batter should not be eaten - no matter how tempting. Children should not be provided raw dough to play with (including at restaurants) unless they are carefully supervised and wash their hands afterwards. Young children frequently like to put things in their mouth or "taste" things, and they are particularly susceptible to getting sick from food borne illnesses.
- Bacteria found in raw flour are eliminated by normal cooking, baking, frying, or boiling products made with flour. Bacteria is commonly found in flour at low levels because flour comes from milling wheat, something that is grown outdoors where bacteria are often present.
- All surfaces, hands and utensils should be properly cleaned after contact with flour or dough. Surfaces dusted with flour to roll dough for example, should be properly cleaned after use.