Hostess issued a nationwide recall that encompasses 710,000 cases of snack cakes and donuts on June 3, after receiving reports that two peanut-allergic children had suffered allergic reactions from its donuts.
The actions taken by Hostess follow an initial flour supplier’s recall that also affected these retailers’ bakery goods: Cinnabon Stix, Safeway 8-inch Single Layer Red Velvet Cake, Acme and Jewel 12-inch Decorated Chocolate Chip cookies, and Chick-fil-A Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
Soon after Hostess’s announcement, Frito-Lay issued a similar voluntary recall of various Rold Gold pretzel products made with flour from the same supplier found to have peanut-tainted lots. Since Rold Gold Tiny Twists, Thins, Sticks, and Honey Wheat Braided could contain low levels of undeclared peanut, Frito-Lay opted to pull them from grocer shelves across America.
Then in the week of June 13, both Kellogg’s and Mars Chocolate also issued a voluntary recalls of specific products that might contain the affected wheat. Kellogg’s pulled back several of its Keebler, Famous Amos and Special K cookies and snacks. (See the Kellogg’s product list here.) Mars, meantime, recalled certain Combos brand pretzels and crackers. (See the Mars product list here.)
The pulling of these snack products is tied directly to the initial recall from the flour wholesaler Grain Craft, which is headquartered in Tennessee. After learning of the two reactions, Hostess tested the “soft red winter wheat flour” it had received from Grain Craft and notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that it was found to contain peanut protein. The FDA reports that Hostess then tested more finished products and “found other instances of products or flours with low level peanut residues.”
In late April, Grain Craft first approached the FDA to say that some lots of the red winter wheat flour tested positive for peanut – despite the fact that its Georgia-based mills do not process any peanuts or peanut products.
Grain Craft stopped processing and supplying that particular wheat flour as of April 30 and, following more discussions with the FDA, the initial recall was issued.
Of concern for those managing peanut allergies is the fact that the wholesale miller says the peanut contamination was discovered in “soft red winter wheat grown in peanut producing regions of the South (of the state of Georgia).” The issue appears to stem from peanut exposure in the field or during handling.
“Cross-contact is naturally occurring in agriculture,” a Grain Craft spokesperson told Allergic Living. “Dust from various crops becomes airborne and can become co-mingled during the growing, harvesting and shipping processes.”
Grain Craft stopped purchasing the flour that it identified as subject to cross-contact. However, the miller says that cross-contact remains an “ongoing concern for the agriculture and food industry more broadly.”
“These recent recalls bring to light the challenge of agricultural cross-contact, which is the result of customary methods of growing, harvesting and shipping of wheat and other agricultural products,” Grain Craft said in a statement.
The FDA characterized the level of peanut protein in the Grain Craft red winter wheat flour as “low”. Yet two children did react to the Hostess donuts, and the agency cautions those with peanut allergies to avoid the recalled products. Hostess told Allergic Living that the two children have recovered. –with files from Gwen Smith
A note to Canadian readers: the CFIA has confirmed the affected products were not sold in Canada.
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