General Mills is recalling about 600,000 pounds of Gold Medal flour over concerns of an E. coli contamination.
The Minnesota-based food maker issued the voluntary recall Monday after a sampling at its Kansas City facility tested positive for E. coli 026, a potentially deadly strain of the bacteria. No consumers have yet reported illness from eating or handling the flour, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announcement.
The recall affects just one date code of five-pound bags of Gold Medal Unbleached All Purpose Flour. General Mills is urging consumers with a five-pound bag labeled with a "better if used by" date of Sept. 6, 2020, to check their cupboards and throw away the product if covered by this recall.
General Mills issued a spate of Gold Medal flour recalls three years ago after two different strains of E. coli, 029 and 0121, sickened dozens of people across more than 20 states. That recall grew to include 45 million pounds of flour, or about 2% of its annual output, which also originated at its Kansas City plant. Producers of bread mixes and other products containing General Mills flour pulled them off shelves, too.
The 2016 recall event raised new questions about the safety of flour and led to public admonitions against eating raw cookie and cake batter by the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions and the FDA.
Flour is a raw food product that is not treated to kill potential pathogens and therefore has a greater likelihood than more heavily processed foods of being contaminated in the field or during transportation. E. coli usually originates in feces, such as livestock. It often reaches humans through raw or undercooked meats, but can contaminate crops, like wheat, as well.
Earlier this year, the company recalled about 100,000 pounds of Gold Medal flour after Salmonella was detected in random, on-shelf testing, but no illnesses were reported.
General Mills and the food safety authorities remind consumers that E. coli 026 is killed by heat -- whether baking, frying, sauteing or boiling products made with flour. Just like with meat, experts say consumers should thoroughly clean countertops, bowls, utensils and hands after coming in contact with flour or dough.
Customers who bought the newly-recalled flour can receive a replacement coupon by calling 1-800-230-8103.
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