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More salmonella-related food recalls ahead, FDA warns, citing suspect whey ingredient

Why are food recalls on the rise?

Consumers can expect additional recalls of products possibly contaminated with salmonella in coming days.

Federal officials believe a common whey ingredient supplied by Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) may have been contaminated with salmonella. The ingredient was used in recently recalled foods including certain Mondelez's Ritz products, some Pepperidge Farm's Goldfish and Flowers Foods' Swiss Rolls, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"As there are likely other food products made by other manufacturers that also use this common ingredient, there may be other recalls initiated in the coming days," Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

The FDA chief's statement cited as an example certain food products under the Hungry Man label: "Our partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working with Pinnacle Foods Inc. on a public health alert regarding certain Hungry Man products that may also contain this ingredient."

6 snacks at risk of salmonella

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert involving individual frozen microwavable dinners with "Hungry Man Chipotle BBQ Sauced Boneless Chicken WYNGZ" printed on the label and bearing a best buy date of Sept. 6, 2019. The product was shipped to retailers in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

There is no evidence that anyone has been sickened by one of the products, with the recalls initiated due to the potential risk, Gottlieb noted.

"At the time we initiated the U.S. Ritz Cracker Sandwich and Ritz Bits recall action, we had not received any complaints of illness related to the impacted products," a Mondelez spokesperson said b email. "Since we announced the recall, we have received two consumer complaints of illness related to the recalled product, and have been in contact with both consumers."

Separately, a multistate outbreak of salmonella linked to Kellogg's Honey Smacks cereal has sickened 100 people in 33 states. 

AMPI, a dairy marketing cooperative based in New Ulm, Minnesota, said it was recalling "a limited amount of dry whey powder product produced in May and June. All the products involved tested negative for salmonella as part of its routine testing program," a spokesperson emailed CBS MoneyWatch. "However, because additional product tested positive for salmonella under AMPI's routine test and hold procedures, the company is recalling product as a precautionary measure."

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Powdered dairy products made by Associated Milk Producers Inc. Associated Milk Producers Inc.

The cooperative has reached out to its manufacturing customers and brokers who distribute the whey product now involved in four manufacturer recalls. The spokesperson said AMPI does not release the names of its customers and declined to say how much whey powder packaged in 50-pound bags and 25-kilogram bags involved in the recall had been distributed.

AMPI has ceased production at its dry whey plant in Blair, Wisconsin, until an investigation is complete.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates salmonella causes about 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the U.S. each year, with food the source of an overwhelming majority of the cases. The bacteria causes abdominal cramps between 12 and 72 hours after infection, and usually last four to seven days, according to the CDC. Children under the age of five are at the highest risk of infection, with older adults and those with weakened immune systems also vulnerable to severe infections.