46 now sick: Creepy crawly General Mills E. coli O121 flour recall expands again

Amy and kids made playdoh from scratch the other day. Flour, water, salt, food coloring, and a mess.

Amy’s gluten-intolerant, but wasn’t about to use expensive gluten-free flour to make playdoh.

whole.wheat.flour.jan.13Flour dust was everywhere, and within 15 minutes Amy announced, “I’ve been glutened. Damn.”

Now image if that flour had E. coli O121 or some other Shiga-toxin producing E. coli inside.

So it’s a stretch to say, as General Mills does, that, “No illnesses have been connected with flour that has been properly baked, cooked or handled.”

Maybe. A better solution may be to use pasteurized flour.

From the PR:

Due to four new confirmed illnesses, General Mills is adding additional flour production dates to the previously announced U.S. retail flour recall that was originally announced on May 31, 2016.

The illnesses reported to health officials continue to be connected with consumers reporting that they ate or handled uncooked dough or ate uncooked batter made with raw flour.  No illnesses have been connected with flour that has been properly baked, cooked or handled.

The addition of new flour production dates is the result of General Mills conducting proactive flour testing and new information from health officials who are using new whole genome sequencing techniques to trace illnesses. E.coli (several sub-types) has been detected in a small number of General Mills flour samples and some have been linked to new patient illnesses that fell outside of the previously recalled dates.

At this time, it is unknown if we are experiencing a higher prevalence of E.coli in flour than normal, if this is an issue isolated to General Mills’ flour, or if this is an issue across the flour industry. The newer detection and genome sequencing tools are also possibly making a connection to flour that may have always existed at these levels.

“As a leader in flour production for 150 years, General Mills is committed to convening experts to work with government officials to learn more and create new protocols, if needed,” said General Mills President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Harmening. “Most importantly, we want all the avid home bakers out there to have peace of mind and know the most important thing they can do to keep safe is to not eat uncooked flour.”

Flour is a raw ingredient that is intended to be cooked or baked.  Flour is made from wheat that is grown outdoors where bacteria are often present and the normal flour milling process does not remove these bacteria.

Previously announced recalled flour production dates ranged from November 4, 2015 through December 4, 2015. The expansion announced today includes select production dates through February 10, 2016. The new recall applies only to the specific product and date codes listed below.  

A full list of retail products included in the flour recall since May 31, 2016 can be found at www.generalmills.com/flour.