General Mills has expanded its recall of flour again, because four new cases of E. coli illnesses associated with their products have been confirmed. The original recall was announced on May 31, 2016. The recall was expanded for the first time on July 1, 2016. Now 46 people in 21 states have been sickened in this particular outbreak.
The additional new flour production dates are the result of General Mills conducting flour testing and new information from whole genome sequencing (WGS) testing on the bacteria. Several subtypes of E. coli bacteria have been found 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,” according to the news release. General Mills does not know if there is just more E. coli bacteria in flour than usual, if this is a problem unique to this company, or if the entire flour industry is experiencing this issue.
WGS is a more sophisticated type of tool that can identify bacteria, and there are new detection testing methods that may be finding bacteria in flour that has always been there. Which is why food safety experts have warned consumers against consuming any product with raw, or uncooked, flour for years.
Flour is a raw ingredient that should be cooked or baked before consuming. Since the wheat used to make the flour is grown outdoors, it can be contaminated through animals in the field, contaminated agricultural water, issues in transport, or problems in processing. There is no “kill step” used when flour is produced from raw wheat.
No illnesses are being reported from the consumption of flour that has been thoroughly cooked or baked. The new illnesses are connected to consumers reporting they ate or handled uncooked dough or ate uncooked batter made with raw flour.
The symptoms of an E. coli infection include severe stomach and abdominal cramps, possible mild fever, nausea, vomiting, and severe diarrhea that can be watery and/or bloody. This illness can become hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious condition that can cause kidney failure and death in some patients, especially small children. One person in this outbreak has developed HUS.
The recalled products are 13.5 ounce packages of Gold Medal Wondra, with UPC number 000-16000-18980 and Better if Used by Date of 14MAY2017PK. Also recalled is 2 pound packages of Gold Medal All Purpose Flour with UPC number 000-16000-10710 and Better if Used by Dates of 18JUN2017KC, 01AUG2017KC, 13AUG2017KC through 21AUG2017KC.
Ten pound bags of Gold Medal All Purpose Flour are recalled, with UPC number 000-16000-10410 and Better if Used by Dates of 18JUN2017KC and 01AUG2017KC. Five pound bags of Gold Medal All Purpose Flour with UPC number 000-16000-10610 are recalled, with Better if Used by Dates of 18JUN2017KC, 01AUG2017KC, and 13AUG2017KC through 21AUG2017KC.
Five pound bags of Gold Medal Self Rising Flour with UPC number 000-16000-11610 and Better if Used by Date of 27OCT2016KC are recalled. Gold Medal All Purpose Flour in 4.25 pound packages is recalled, with UPC number 000-16000-12670 and Better if Used by Dates of 01AUG2017KC, 19AUG2017KC, 20AUG2017KC, and 21AUG2017KC. Five pound packages of Gold Medal Unbleached Flour with UPC number 000-16000-19610 and Better if Used by Dates of 01AUG2017KC, 14AUG2017KC, 15AUG2017KC, 16AUG2017KC, 17AUG2017KC, 19AUG2017KC, and 20AUG2017KC are recalled.
Two pound packages of Signature Kitchens All Purpose Flour Enriched Bleached are recalled, with UPC number 000-21130-53000 and Better if Used by Dates of BB 15 AUG 2017 and BB 16 AUG 2017. Finally, 5 pound bags of Signature Kitchens Unbleached Flour All Purpose Enriched are recalled, with UPC number 000-21130-53022 and Better if Used by Date of BB 01 AUG 2017.
Please check those dates carefully. If you have any of these products from this recall or the previous recalls, or if you have decanted the flour into another container and no longer have the bag, throw it away in a sealed or double bagged package. Do not use the flour even if you plan on cooking with it; E. coli bacteria can easily fit on fine particles of flour that can drift around your kitchen.