Recalls of food products have happened from time to time and are quite natural, but with some bigger names, the entire country was affected. Not only can this cause a loss of millions of dollars, but also cause major health and sanitation costs. History bears proof of some of the biggest food recalls in the world, and today, we’ll go through some that may have skipped your mind.
An industry leader, thanks to its low-cost products, Costco was ordered to recall a diced onion and celery mix that was used in its chicken salad in the year of 2015. Based in Issaquah, Washington, the brand’s mix showed E. coli contamination which alerted the FDA.
The veggie mix was produced by Taylor Farms Pacific Inc., a California-based company, and managed to sicken 19 people across seven different states. Fortunately, there were no losses but five did end up in the hospital.
It’s rare for a brand to voluntarily recall its products from the market as there is a lot riding on this. They will obviously incur losses, but they might also lose brand reputation. Freshway Foods recalled romaine lettuce packages in 2010 after the FDA found traces of E-coli in an unopened sample.
The Sidney, Ohio-based brand had been notified by the agency after the results came into their New York laboratory. However, the recalled foods were later sold off in the eastern market, sickening over 26 people.
Topps Meat Company
Carrying the lethal E. coli bacteria, ground meat from Topps Meat Company was recalled in 2007. The brand was forced to do so after the FDA discovered their product to be infiltrated. Over 21.7 million pounds of ground meat was withdrawn but the damages had been done.
The outbreak infected 30 people. This incident set Topps up for doom, more so because they were the nation’s leading seller of frozen hamburger patties. As expected, the company was shut down post-outbreak.
SoyNut Butter Company
SoyNut Butter Company had managed to make a name for itself through its peanut butter alternatives and nut-free granola products. Based in Glenview, Illinois, SoyNut Butter Co. recalled its original I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter in an attempt to contain the spread of E. coli.
The bacteria still managed to spread in 12 states and infected 32 people, 26 of whom were children. Shortly after, the company filed for bankruptcy as the outbreak was blamed on their soy nut paste.
Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc
Headquartered in Quebec, Canada, Northfork Bison Distributions, Inc. had to recall all of its grand bison products. The list included everything produced between February and April – mainly their four-ounce burger patties.
In July of 2019, they were forced to withdraw those after more than 30 consumers across eight states were marked sick. Moreover, according to the CDC, 18 landed up in the hospital. Customers and other food brands who bought their products within the given time frame were told to return the goods for a full refund.
Foster Farms, headquartered in Livingston, California, produced chicken that triggered a 17-month-long salmonella outbreak in 29 U.S. states and Puerto Rico. The first few cases were reported in March 2013. By July 2014, about 634 people were known to be affected while 241 had to be hospitalized.
Foster Farms soon declared that an undecided amount of chicken products manufactured on three different dates in March were recalled. Interestingly enough, their chicken products were detected to be contaminated twice after that; once in 2016 and the second time in 2020.
Wright County Egg/Hillandale Farms
The biggest egg recall in recorded history happened in 2010 after a salmonella outbreak. Consecutively, 500,000 eggs were taken off the sleeves. The contaminated eggs originated from two farms in Iowa: Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg.
Spread out across stores in 14 states, the eggs sickened over 1,900 people. Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa was the first to announce the recall in August 2010. A few days later, Hillandale Farms also reported that they were going to recall their products on a nationwide scale.
JBS Tolleson, Inc.
Located in Tolleson, Arizona from which it got its name, JSB Tolleson, Inc. recalled about seven million pounds of its beef products. Products including ground beef were suspected to be contaminated with Salmonella Newport.
Soon after, they recalled an additional five million pounds of beef. The packaged meat was dated between July 26, 2018, and September seven, 2018. These products were sold to stores across the nation under multiple brand names. 246 people from 26 states were reported to be affected.
On second July 1971, the FDA released a public warning upon learning that a man in Westchester County, New York, had passed away after consuming a can of Bon Vivant vichyssoise soup. While his wife was terribly sick, she survived.
6,444 cans of the soup were recalled as well as all other soups from the brand Bon Vivant – summing up to about a million cans. The company was swiftly shut down by the FDA on July seven. Five out of 324 soup cans were found to contain botulinum toxin.
Odwalla Inc. from Atlanta, Georgia, was ordered to recall one of their products after an outbreak of E. coli in 1996. Their unpasteurized apple juice caused sickness in 65 people in the western U.S. alongside British Columbia.
In addition, one child also passed away due to the juice. The brand recalled the beverage from four thousand distributors and stopped producing carrot juice and apple juice in its California facilities. They faced criminal charges, pled guilty, and paid $1.5 million in fine. Coca-Cola bought the brand later on.
Blue Bell Creameries
The country’s third-largest ice cream producer; a beloved company of the South, Blue Bell Creameries had to navigate through an outbreak of listeria in 2015. In four states, ten people were infected out of which, three passed away in Kansas.
Based in Brenham, Texas, Blue Bell voluntarily recalled their yogurt, sherbet, ice cream, and frozen snack goods in April 2015. They then shut down their flagship Brenham creamery. Blue Bell pleaded guilty to two criminal charges in 2020 and was ordered to pay a $17.25 million fine.
Carica de Campeche Farm
Not one, not two, but five unique strains of salmonella were detected in papayas in 2017. Those five strains accounted for four salmonella outbreaks in the nation. Grown on a farm in Campeche, Mexico, the papayas infected 220 people across 23 states over five months.
68 of them had to be rushed to hospital while two people from New York City lost their lives. As a result, three companies declared a recall of the papayas – Freshtex Produce, Grande Produce, and Agroson’s LLC.
Vulto Creamery was an established artisanal cheesemaker working from Walton, New York. In March 2017, the brand recalled multiple batches of cheeses produced with raw milk that was contaminated with listeria. They had distributed their products across the country and were mainly sold in super shops like Whole Food Market.
Two fatalities were reported due to the outbreak. An additional eight people fell ill. Evidently, Vulto’s owner was aware of the facility’s contamination for two years but chose to keep it a secret. They had to shut down in 2018.
Chamberlain Farms Produce
The FDA declared a recall of Chamberlain Farm Produce, Inc.’s cantaloupes in 2012 after they were found to be contaminated with Salmonella. The cases got severe in a short span. 261 people were reported to be infected, 94 hospitalized, and three lives lost.
The inspecting officer stated that the conditions of the farm were rather poor, with sanitation and health code violations in every stage from picking the cantaloupes to packing them. By early September, the Indiana brand was also ordered to recall its watermelons.
The Italian cheese importer, Frescolina Marte experienced a listeria outbreak in 2012. The pathogen was found in their ricotta Salata cheese, causing a foodborne illness that spread over 13 states as well as the District of Columbia. 22 people were infected, 20 hospitalized, and four were reported deceased.
Forever Cheese Inc., the importers, voluntarily recalled the product while the CDC put Fattorie Chiarappa S.R.L., another exporter, on import alert. The latter couldn’t export cheese to the U.S. until they could prove their products don’t contain listeria.
Natural Selection Foods
Spinach grown by Natural Selection Foods caused 205 infections and five fatalities in September 2006. Out of those statistics, 31 cases developed hemolytic uremic syndrome and 104 were hospitalized. Grown in San Juan Bautista, California, the spinach contained strains of E. coli.
The company sold this particular leafy green under its brand named “Earthbound Farm.” The product was later recalled. A worrying report was released by Washington Post sometime afterward saying that Natural Selection supplied 74% of the country’s grocery stores with bagged spinach.
Peanut Corporation of America
For over a year, a massive outbreak of Salmonella terrorized the people of the U.S. and Canada. This incident took place between the years 2008 and 2009. The pathogen was discovered in the peanut products of Peanut Corporation of America at their Plainview, Texas plant.
It caused a foodborne illness infecting more than 700 people and taking the lives of nine. The company issued a recall of 3,600 products followed by a filing for bankruptcy in February 2009.
Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce
Salmonella tainted cucumbers took the lives of six people in 2015. Furthermore, 907 people were sickened whereas 204 were admitted to hospitals across 40 states. The CDC linked the outbreak to Andrew & Williamson Fresh produces’ vegetables which they had imported from Mexico.
However, the source of the contamination was never discovered. Located in San Diego, California, Andrew & Williamson declared a recall of the produce in September 2015. All cucumbers sold under the brand label “Limited Edition” during the timespan of August to September were withdrawn.
Perhaps the worst salmonella outbreak in recorded history happened in 1985 due to Hillfarm Dairy’s products. The milk from the company’s facility in Melrose Park, Illinois was tainted with the pathogen.
Over 16,000 contracted the diseases alongside the upper Midwest – and a rough estimation shows that aside from the two confirmed fatalities, at least 12 more lives were lost. The milk went off the shelves of supermarkets before the company was identified as the outbreak’s source and they had to shut down.
2002 marked the year deli meat from Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation wreaked havoc across eight U.S. states. 46 people were identified with listeria, which prompted Pilgrim’s Pride to recall ready-to-eat turkey and chicken products amounting to 27.4 million pounds.
The outbreak causes ten confirmed casualties, including three miscarriages and stillbirths. Another case of recall was announced by the company in 2020 and they subsequently withdrew 59,800 pounds of frozen nuggets. The Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety suspected bits of rubber in them.
Based in Ontario, Canada, Menu Foods was the largest producer of wet food for cats and dogs in North America. Their products sold under 95 brand names in super shops, and pet stores. In 2007, the company recalled 60 million packages and cans of pet food after it took the lives of 14 cats and dogs.
It was reported that the gluten in a few products had been tainted with melamine, a chemical used in the manufacturing of cooking utensils, paperboard, and so on. The brand stopped operations in 2010.
Deli meat and hot dog mega producers Sara Lee Corp. issued a public statement saying they would be recalling 35 pounds of meat “voluntarily.” The incident which took place in 1998 was an outbreak caused by listeria found in their products. It affected 100 people and took 21 lives.
Goes without saying that the company suffered huge losses – the recall costing them over $76 million. Moreover, they have to renovate the facility where the outbreak spawned and that cost an extra $25 million.
Jalisco Mexican Products Inc.
In 1985, Jalisco Mexican Products Inc. produced a super popular soft variant of Mexican-style cheese. However, the looks and taste defied everyone where it caused a horrific 28-state outbreak of listeria. Jalisco used unpasteurized milk which is believed to have been ground zero for the bacteria.
142 cases of listeriosis were confirmed among the consumers in Los Angeles County, out of which, 93 were pregnant women. Apart from that, there were 28 casualties, including ten newborns. However, it was later revealed that the casualty count crossed 60.
Jack in the Box
One of the worst cases of E. coli outbreaks happened in 1993 when more than 500 people in California, Washington, Nevada, and Idaho were affected by a foodborne illness after consuming Jack in the Box’s hamburgers. The infections were traced to 11 patty lots produced by the brand in California.
Although they issued a recall, a mere 20% of the ground beef could be recovered and Jack in the Box lost $160 million. It’s expected that the outbreak caused at least 170 hospitalizations and four casualties, one being a child.
You wouldn’t expect the biggest foodborne illness of the 2010s to be linked to cantaloupe, but surprise-surprise. In 2011, Colorado-based Jensen Farms was linked to a massive outbreak of listeria.
The contaminated cantaloupes infected 147 people in 28 states, dozens of hospitalizations, and over 33 fatalities. Jensen Farms soon filed for bankruptcy and the owners were charged with multiple counts of food adulteration alongside abetting and aiding. Sadly, they didn’t get any prison time.
Located in Springdale, Arkansas, Cargill Meat Solution Corporation had not one, but two salmonella outbreaks in 2011. The first dates back to August 2011; 75 people became ill and one passed away after eating the company’s ground turkey.
This made them recall about 36 million pounds of meat. Not even a month later, there was an alarming continuation of the same foodborne diseases, leading to an additional recall of 185,000 pounds of ground turkey. The brand has grown to be a large global food corporation despite the scandals.
Colorado Premium Foods
At the start of March 2019, multiple sources reported people were getting sick after consuming ground beef. No store, brand, or single distributor was identified to be selling the tainted meat. Across ten states, more than 30 people were hospitalized. Two had to go through kidney failure.
In April of the same year, Grant Park Packing from Franklin, Illinois, and Colorado Premium Foods from Carrollton, Georgia recalled about 53,200 pounds and 113,000 pounds respectively of uncooked ground beef goods. You do the math.
Siga Logistics de RL de CV
In June 2019, the CDC started investigating the outbreak of a parasite named Cyclospora cayetanensis. The infections were linked to consuming “fresh” basil from the brand Siga Logistics de RL de CV from Morelos, Mexico.
241 cases were reported in five states and six people were taken to the hospital. On July 24, 2019, the brand recalled the infected products after about a month and a half of the first case identification. To this day, the first thing you’ll see when you search them up is news on the recall.
The Hudson Foods recall case was the biggest of its time during 1997. 25 million pounds of beef were removed from the market as per the orders of the Department of Agriculture due to E. coli contamination.
Housed in Rogers, Arkansas, Hudson Foods also closed its meat-processing facility in Columbus, Nebraska temporarily. It also lost its contract with Burger King before being sold later that year. There were no casualties but 16 people were identified with E. coli.
ConAgra Beef Company
There was an outbreak of E. coli in 2002. After close inspection, the roots could be traced back to ConAgra Beef Company. The company was running operations from Greeley, Colorado, and had given 19 people in six states the bacteria.
Seven had to be hospitalized. Over 19 million pounds of beef were taken out from the market. Officials from the Department of Agriculture said that although the contaminated meat had been recalled from the market, a major portion of it had already been consumed by the masses.
ADM Milling Co.
ADM Million Co. had a long list of brands working closely with the company to market and sell their products, including Pillsbury, Aldi, Brand Castle, LLC, and King Arthur. Between June and September and 2019, the brands voluntarily removed a bunch of products from the market.
Noteworthy mentions are their flour, brownie, and cookie mixes since they were particularly observed to contain E. coli. The infection count rose to 21 across nine states but there were no fatalities.
This one isn’t about a company but a general food product. The CDC advised consumers in the U.S. to throw out any romaine lettuce which had been sitting in their fridge. The incident took place on November 20, 2018, after there was an outbreak of E-coli.
Among 11 states, 32 infected people were found. 13 people had to be hospitalized due to the tainted veggie and one of them suffered kidney failure too. There wasn’t enough information to determine which source(s) was/were responsible for this.
Marking the first mention of incidents (in this list) where the number of people affected hit the three-digit mark, the 2013 incident of Townsend Farms was alarming. This time, it wasn’t bacteria. An outbreak of the hepatitis A virus was connected to the pomegranate seeds coming in from Turkey.
162 people in ten states fell ill. The Turkish exporter’s shipments were detained after the FDA realized what was going on. Based in Fairview, Oregon, Townsend Farms issued a public notice claiming they had voluntarily recalled their Organic Antioxidant Blends.
Although one of the biggest food product manufacturers in the world, Nestlé isn’t free from its share of bad goods. The Swiss multinational conglomerate recalled 300,000 cases of refrigerated cookie dough under its “Toll House” trademark.
This incident took place in 2009. People were obsessed with their cookie dough goods (who wouldn’t be), but it was soon found out that it contained E. coli. Everything was made in Rosslyn, Virginia, and it caused 65 people in 29 states to get sick. 25 people had to go to the hospital.
Hailing from Golden Valley, Minnesota, General Mills, Inc. was in for a big shock in May 2016. Several batches of their raw flour were connected to E. coli. In 24 different states, 63 people got ill after consuming the flour, with 17 needing to be hospitalized.
45 million pounds of flour was recalled among three companies: Signature Kitchens, Gold Medal, and Gold Medal Wondra. General Mills, Inc. came under fire once more in 2019 when they “voluntarily” recalled their five-pound bags of Gold Medal Unbleached All-Purpose Flour.