Listeria alert: SunOpta extends sunflower seed recall period by eight months

By Vince Bamford

- Last updated on GMT

Seed kernels may be contaminated with L. mono. Original photo: iStock - Judith Flacke
Seed kernels may be contaminated with L. mono. Original photo: iStock - Judith Flacke

Related tags Listeria monocytogenes Sunopta

SunOpta – the supplier connected to a raft of US recalls relating to potential sunflower seed contamination – has extended the recall period of its products for a second time.

The business initially recalled sunflower kernel products produced at its facility in Crookston, Minnesota, between February 1, 2016 and February 19 over fears they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes​. Two weeks ago, it extended the recall period to include products produced February 20, 2016 through April 21, 2016.

SunOpta has now extended the recall period back a further eight months to cover certain sunflower kernel products produced at the facility between May 31, 2015 and January 31, 2016, including snack bars and packets of kernels. The company said no illnesses related to the consumption of these products have been confirmed.

It is yet to be seen what impact the recall extension may have on manufacturers who have been supplied sunflower seed kernels as an ingredient by SunOpta. The first extension by the supplier brought a string of further recalls from businesses including Treehouse Foods​.

'Abundance of caution'

"In an abundance of caution, we are expanding the recall period to include sunflower kernel products originating from our Crookston facility that have any potential to be contaminated​,” said SunOpta president and CEO Rik Jacobs yesterday (June 1).

We expanded the recall because we cannot guarantee the quality of the affected products with absolute certainty, which is always our highest priority​.”

What is Listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches, sometimes preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms.

Production of roasted sunflower kernel products at the Crookston facility had been halted since April 21 – following the discovery of the potential contamination issue – but has now resumed.

Root cause of contamination eliminated

SunOpta said it has reviewed its manufacturing processes and, through working with “external experts,​” has identified and eliminated the root causes of the contamination.

The company has also “enhanced​” testing before shipments go out to customers, “to give our customers the confidence that all products meet or exceed rigorous quality and food safety specifications.​”

SunOpta said it carried adequate insurance to help mitigate the direct and indirect costs of events such as a recall, adding that the roasted kernel products from the affected Crookston production lines represented less than 1% of the company’s annual sales.

For a list of affected SunOpta retail products see here​.

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