Wednesday, January 13, 2010

ALERT: Listeria monocytogenes Prompts Hash Brown Potato Recalls

Mr. Dell's, O'Briens, ShopRite, Food Club and Giant Eagle brands all affected.

Frozen hash brown potato products recalled after a state regulatory agency finds Listeria monocytogenes in a product sample during routine testing.

Since the beginning of 2010, several supermarket chains have recalled frozen hash brown potato products, in most cases due to potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

Neither FDA nor any state agencies have posted recall notices or consumer advisories.

The recalls cover at least six varieties of frozen hash brown potatoes, distributed in as many as 17 states.

ShopRite – with stores in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland – advised its customers of the recall on January 4th. According to the Company's website, ShopRite Southern Style Hash Browns –32 oz. (UPC: 41190-40059) was being removed from sale because "... routine testing by a regulatory agency ..." revealed potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. ShopRite directed customers to return the product to the store for a refund.

Food City - with stores in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee – notified customers on January 5th of the recall of Food Club Shredded Hash Browns (30 oz Pouch).

Giant Eagle – with stores in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia – recalled on January 8th five varieties of Giant Eagle brand hash brown potato products, in addition to Food Club Shredded Hash Browns, due to "possible bacterial contamination." In response to my email query, Giant Eagle promptly provided the following additional information.

"Our supplier of Giant Eagle and Food Club Frozen Loose Hash Browns has made us aware of the presence of a bacterium in product produced in the same facility as these items. While it has not yet been confirmed that either of these items are affected, Giant Eagle is performing a market recall as a precautionary measure. There are no reported cases of customer illness due to consumption of these items, and no other Giant Eagle potato product is affected, including Giant Eagle Frozen Hash Brown Patties.

"We are testing a sampling of Giant Eagle and Food Club Frozen Loose Hash Browns. It is important to note that any potential health risk is negated if the product is cooked as directed. However, should any customer want to return the previously purchased product, he or she can return the product to their local Giant Eagle and receive the double your money back guarantee upheld for all Giant Eagle brand products."

Brookshire's Food & Pharmacy – with stores in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas – recalled on January 11th Food Club 30 oz. Shredded Hash Browns (UPC-3680006530) and 28 oz. O’Brien Potatoes (UPC-3680006299) because an "... unrelated (non Food Club brand) sample tested positive for the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes from the same manufacturer."

King Soopers (part of The Kroger Co.) – with stores in Colorado and Wyoming – recalled on January 11th Mr. Dell's brand Shredded Hash Browns, 64 oz., because the product "... may contain Listeria monocytogenes..."

Based on the supermarket recall notices and their areas of operation, the recalled frozen hash brown potato products may have been distributed in: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

According to Mike Dizon – Director of Corporate Communications for Topco Associates – Food Club and Giant Eagle brands of Shredded Hash Brown potato products were recalled as a precautionary measure after a state regulatory agency detected Listeria in a single sample during routine testing. Dizon confirmed that Mr. Dell Foods, Inc. is the manufacturer of both the Food City and the Giant Eagle Shredded Hash Brown potatoes, but could not comment on the Mr. Dell's, O'Briens, and ShopRite recalls, as these are not part of Topco's portfolio of products.

Topco Associates is a member-owned company that provides procurement, quality assurance, packaging and other services for its members, which include supermarket retailers, wholesalers and foodservice companies.

Mr. Dell Foods Inc. is based in Kearney, Missouri and has been producing frozen hash brown potato products since 1975. The company's retail products include Mr. Dell's Shredded Hash Browns, Mr. Dell's O'Brien Hash Browns and Mr. Dell's Southern Style Hash Browns. The company also produces the Chef's Choice line of hash brown potatoes for food service operators.

Anyone who has purchased the recalled brands of frozen hash brown potatoes, should return them to the store for a refund.

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  1. I purchased, made a casserole and ALREADY ATE (along w/ my family) the Mr. Dell's Shredded Hash Browns. Purchased on 1/9, cooked on 1/10. So far no one has become ill. Are there any fatalaties linked to this recall? Please advise any symptons related to this recall. Thanks. Concerned in Missouri.

  2. Dear Concerned,

    Listeria monocytogenes is destroyed by thorough cooking. Your casserole should be fine, if it was cooked completely through. There have been no illnesses that I am aware of. The risk associated with this recall relates to (a) undercooking or (b) assuming that the hash browns are "ready-to-eat" and tasting them without cooking. Also, microwave cooking is a very unreliable way to ensure that any solid food has been cooked enough to kill harmful bacteria. If you cooked your casserole in the microwave, you might have "cold spots" where the food didn't get hot enough to kill bacteria.

    Listeria monocytogenes produces a mild "stomach flu" in most cases, but can cause very serious illness in the elderly, in very young children, and in some other risk groups, such as pregnant women. Please check the CDC ( for more details on this microbe and the disease symptoms it produces.

    If you have any more packages of the Hash Browns, I would urge you to return them to the store.


  3. I am pregnant and ate a soup that contained the Giant Eagle hash browns. Would hash browns in a soup be considered "cooked as directed" or "properly cooked?" I'm pretty freaked out since I've read that the mother can be symptom free but the unborn child can still be infected. I've been so careful to avoid deli meats and to wash vegetables properly. This is pretty upsetting.

  4. @Anonymous: If the potatoes were boiled or simmered in the soup for several minutes, that would be adequate. Listeria monocytogenes is not an extraordinarily heat-resistant microbe. But if the hash browns were simply thawed and added to the soup just before serving (e.g., in the individual bowls), I would be concerned. If you would like to email me directly, please feel free to contact me using the same link as if you were asking for an email alert.

  5. I made the hashbrowns on December 20th for a family party. Most were cooked thoroughly but I always microwave some to make sure I have them seasoned enough. I have had stomach issues over the past three weeks with a stiff neck and many headaches. Is this from Listeria or a coincidence? Thanks.

  6. @Anonymous: Your symptoms could be due to an infection with Listeria monocytogenes, but might be coincidence. Did you use one of the recalled brands of Hash Browns?

    I would strongly recommend that you see your doctor and mention the possibility of Listeria monocytogenes when discussing your symptoms. I would also urge you to contact your county or state department of health and report your concerns. If you have any of the uncooked product still in your freezer, the health dept. will probably want to test it for Listeria monocytogenes - especially if you still have an unopened package in addition to the one you used.

    Please do not let this slide. If there is an outbreak due to this contamination, some people will be at risk of severe illness.


  7. They should properly clean and sanitize the plant and this would not happen!!! I am sick of company's looking to make a buck and skimp on proper sanitation.


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