All The Popular Foods That Were Recalled Without You Realizing

July 15, 2019

When food is produced and distributed in mass quantities like it is in the modern world, regulation is necessary for the sake of consumer safety. While there are typically extensive safety precautions taken during production, there is always the possibility that something could go wrong at some point. That’s why the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) department of the USDA takes responsibility for monitoring food, so they can intervene and recall unsafe products.

Food recalls happen when one of four things occur. Either an unlucky consumer gets sick after eating food and reports it, the producer of the food catches the safety issue on their own and reports, the FSIS notices a health or safety issue during their random sampling of products, or the health department reports back to the FSIS. It’s a very thorough system and we should all feel pretty grateful there is so much oversight keeping our food safe.

A lot of the time, it is the same kinds of foods being recalled over and over again. It’s never surprising when frozen vegetables, fresh greens, or deli meat gets recalled. These foods, however, stand out because they’re popular brands that dealt with a major recall after a health risk was inspected — like one of our writer’s favorite desserts. Some are fairly recent, while some are a blast from the past. Here are all the popular foods that were recalled without you realizing.

1. Pop-Tarts

These packaged pastries are popular for on-the-go breakfasts, but in 2006 a major health risk was discovered.

A major ingredient was left off the nutrition label of this treat that put certain populations at risk. This particular flavor of Pop-Tarts, Frosted Blueberry, were being made with milk. However, that was somehow omitted from the list of ingredients, putting consumers with an allergy or intolerance to milk at risk of getting ill or having an allergic reaction.

2. Kellog’s Breakfast Cereals

Your favorite sugary cereal just might have been on the list during this 2010 recall.

When consumers started complaining of a stale texture and bad odor, Kellog’s pulled 28 million boxes of their cereals. No one got really sick — which is amazing considering that foodborne illness can be serious and even life-threatening — but there were a handful of people who experienced vomiting and nausea. Apple Jacks, Froot Loops, Corn Pops, and Honey Smacks were all included in this massive recall.

3. Ragu Sauce

This tasty spaghetti sauce was discovered to have an unexpected ingredient, triggering a recall in June of this year.

If you experienced a little crunch in your spaghetti, you might not have been imagining things. Ragu had to recall a slew of their chunky-tomato pasta sauce when they learned they might contain small pieces of plastic. The good news is that they discovered this before anyone was hurt. Since this went down recently, make sure you check your pantry for the sauces on the list.

4. Nestle Toll-House Cookie Dough

The truth behind the warnings about eating raw cookie dough is that you never know when you might be taking a risk of contracting E. Coli.

In June of 2009, Nestle discovered their refrigerated cookie dough had been linked to 65 cases of E. Coli. An estimated 90% of the patients who contracted this serious, food-borne illness reported they had eaten the cookie dough raw. Some of the cases were severe, resulting in hospitalizations and even kidney failure in some of the victims.

5. Trader Joe’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

In 2018, the popular bagged cookies from Trader Joe’s were recalled over a major risk of allergic reactions.

When the supplier of the chocolate chips discovered some of the bags may have been filled with peanut butter cookies by mistake, they let Trader Joe’s know so they could take action. Knowing that accidental exposure to peanut butter is very risky for those with a peanut allergy, Trader Joe’s moved forward with a recall.

6. Duncan Hines Cake Mix

This 2018 recall is a great example of the Food  Safety and Inspection Service doing their job well.

When a sample of their cake mix tested positive for salmonella, they knew they had to take quick action. They recalled multiple flavors of the Duncan Hines Cake mix, including Classic White, Classic Golden Butter, Signature Funfetti, and Classic Yellow. At the time, there were some concerns that the contamination may have been behind a salmonella outbreak that was reported at the same time.

7. Kellog’s Honey Smacks

Another cereal recall for Kellog’s, almost a decade later.

In 2018, Kellog’s learned that their Honey Smacks cereal might be contaminated with salmonella. An infectious bacteria, salmonella can cause mild to severe illness with common symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, and fever. This is a kind of worst-case scenario for Kellog’s, having only learned of the possible contamination after 124 people were infected.

8. Tyson Chicken Patties

In 2017, Tyson had to recall over 2.5 million pounds of their frozen chicken patties.

This recall wasn’t over accidental contamination, however. Instead, Tyson failed to list milk on the ingredient list of their patties. The breading was said to have milk in it, and omitting it from the labeling could have put individuals with milk allergies at risk for reactions.

9. Sabrett Hot Dogs

Imagine being the consumer who discovered this disgusting added ingredient in their hot dog.

In 2017, Sabrett was forced to recall over 7 million pounds of their hot dogs. They learned that some of the hot dogs contained pieces of bones and cartilage. How gross! The worst part of this recall is that it wasn’t discovered in random testing or sampling. The bones were discovered by diners who had purchased the hot dogs.

10. P.F. Chang’s Frozen Meals

Produced by ConAgra, these frozen meals were recalled when fragments of metal were discovered in the sugar used in two of the meals.

Some of the metal fragments discovered by the P.F. Chang’s employee were as large as 9 millimeters in diameter. The sugar was specifically used in their Mongolian Beef and Spicy Chicken dinner and the recall covered 200,000 pounds of frozen dinners. Thanks to their employee’s attention to detail, no consumers were harmed by this unwanted addition to the meals.

11. Sabra Hummus

Your favorite dip for pita bread and veggies was one of the largest recalls of 2016.

This huge recall was a case of “better safe than sorry.” Even though no listeria was found in the hummus itself, it was found in the Taylor Farms facility where Sabra hummus is produced. Listeria can have severe symptoms, including fever, diarrhea, and nausea, and roughly 260 people die from the disease each year. Knowing this, it makes sense that Sabra decided to take the risk very seriously.

12. Kraft Macaroni and Cheese

It was consumer reports that drew attention to a problem with the ingredients in Kraft’s Mac n’ Cheese.

In 2015, consumers began finding metal in the boxes of this beloved boxed pasta. Even though no one was injured by the pasta, Kraft took action. With the risk that eating metal could result in injury, Kraft went ahead and recalled a lot of 6.5 million boxes of macaroni and cheese. This may sound like an astronomical recall, but knowing that Kraft sells one million boxes each day really puts things in perspective.

13. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

A recall can be difficult for a large corporation, but for a small-batch producer, it can have devastating effects.

When listeria was discovered in a randomly sampled and tested Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, the small-batch ice cream producer had to take drastic action. They not only recalled every single product they had on the market, but they also had to close up individual shops and suspend production for a period of time. The good news is that Jeni’s recovered and appears to be thriving today.

14. Peanut Corporation of America

This massive recall affected big brands like Keebler and Jenny Craig, and became a criminal case.

In 2006 and 2007, Peanut Corporation of America was shipping peanuts and peanut products contaminated with salmonella. They were a huge supplier for big brand names, and this contamination lead the deaths of 5 people and 500 cases of salmonella poisoning. The scariest part of this whole ordeal was the 2009 discovery that officials in the corporation knew the products they were shipping were not safe for consumption.

15. Blue Bell Ice Cream

Blue Bell’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookie Two-Step flavors were recalled in 2016 after the discovery of a potential listeria contamination.

Like many producers of packaged foods, Blue Bell sources many ingredients from a third-party supplier. It was when they learned that the cookie dough supplied by another party might be continimated with listeria. While there were no reports of listeria poisoning, Blue Bell recalled all sizes of these two flavors just to be safe.

Were these brand-name recalls a surprise? Will you think twice before tossing even of these products in your grocery cart on your next trip to the store?