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FDA probes yogurt firm after reports of sickness

A well-known yogurt company is the target of a recently announced U.S. Food and Drug Administration investigation following reports that consumers became ill after eating yogurt that may have been infected with mold. All cases of sickness were reported after Chobani announced a recall of some of its Greek yogurt, but experts say the mold alleged to have contaminated the yogurt should not have resulted in the symptoms reported by consumers.

Chobani announced a voluntary recall of its Greek yogurt in early September after reports from customers that the yogurt bulged in its containers and became inedible several days in advance of its expiration date. At least 89 consumers complained of nausea, headaches and diarrhea in the days following the recall, suggesting that they contracted a food-borne illness from the expired yogurt.

However, one food safety expert asserted that the mold believed to have infected the yogurt in question has not been linked to food-borne illness and is generally considered to be solely a "spoilage organism." He added that toxins that would cause such sicknesses cannot grow in environments as acidic as yogurt. He suggested that the 89 consumers who reported such symptoms ingested microorganisms from other sources and assumed their symptoms were connected to the recall. Chobani also issued a statement informing customers that the mold contaminating the recalled products is not associated with nausea or diarrhea.

Regardless of Chobani's claims, the FDA announced that it would review the consumer complaints to determine whether the reported illnesses were connected to the recalled yogurt. Chobani did not respond to media requests for comments regarding the accusations, but a government representative said the FDA is currently discussing food safety and quality control issues with the yogurt firm.

Food producers and other similar companies are frequent targets for civil litigation due to their potential for food borne illness. However, many of these lawsuits are filed in error and seek to penalize these firms when no safety lapses have occurred. Protecting a company's interests and reputation is crucial during such litigation.

JSOnline, "FDA investigating 89 complaints of illness from recalled Chobani yogurt" Gitte Laasby, Sep. 09, 2013

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