The FDA has updated the progress on its investigation into the Salmonella Mbandaka infections linked to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal, and there are more illnesses than previously thought.
In conjunction with the CDC, the FDA and state and local health officials have continued their probe into the initial reports of Salmonella Mbandaka illnesses that have been reported since new reports of illnesses continue to arise. The FDA recommends that consumers not eat Honey Smacks cereal due to the ongoing reports of illness. The FDA also pleas with retailers to STOP SELLING HONEY SMACKS PEOPLE! The FDA and CDC confirmed that, despite the outbreak and recalls news: “If you see Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal for sale, do not buy it. The FDA has become aware that recalled Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal is still being offered for sale.” So, just because it is on the shelf does not mean it is safe. This outbreak is still ongoing, and more people continue to get sick.
A Brief History of the Outbreak
On May 17, 2018, clusters of Salmonella Mbandaka illnesses were reported in several states and the FDA, CDC and local health partners worked to identify and collect information in order to identify the source of these illnesses. On June 14, 2018, the Kellogg Company agreed to voluntarily recall Honey Smacks cereal as a result of this investigation.
In response to the identification of the source, the FDA began the process of collecting environmental and product samples from the Kellogg facility and subsequently posted a list of known countries wherein the recalled cereal was distributed and advised that consumers not eat and discard any Kellogg Honey Smacks cereal.
According to the CDC,
“The Kellogg Company recalled all Honey Smacks products that were on the market within the cereal’s one-year shelf-life. However, Honey Smacks products with earlier dates could also potentially be contaminated. People who recently became ill report eating Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal that they had in their homes. Do not eat Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal of any size package or with any “best if used by” date”.
On July 12, 2018, the FDA and CDC posted additional cases linked to this outbreak and reminded consumers that the cereal was under recall and should not be consumed. As recently as August 30, 2018, 130 individuals have reported illnesses in 36 states. Thirty four people have been hospitalized and no deaths were reported. The illness dates of this outbreak have occurred from March 3, 2018 through August 7, 2018. A list of the states and cases reported is as follows.
In a nutshell, don’t eat Honey Smacks right now. Clear out your pantry. Even if you have eaten out of the box already, you still may become sick.
What is Salmonella Mbandaka?
Without delving into the intricacies of the various strains of salmonella bacterium, it can be stated that any version of this pathogen can precipitate symptoms of illness in its victims. This strain can be associated with bean sprouts, so this makes the investigation into the source of this latest outbreak a bit more difficult. The association of the actual source of the outbreak and subsequent illnesses can be varied and complex. There are a variety of pathways by which a bacterial pathogen can infiltrate other sources, e.g. by water or soil, or a common carrier.
Symptoms of Salmonella Infection
Salmonella infections are, unfortunately, common as the bacterium presents itself in meat, poultry, eggs, and even produce. The symptoms usually appear six to seventy two hours after consuming the food that is contaminated. Common symptoms include stomach pain, headache, diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting and low grade fever, and sometimes, but rarely, joint pain. Most people will experience these symptoms for up to seven days, but those individuals who are in good health will tend to experience less severe symptoms. However, very young children, infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems may develop more severe illness. Illness can spread from the bowels to other body sites by way of the blood stream.
Methods to Prevent Salmonella Infection
It is essential, as the first and most critical step in the prevention of foodborne illnesses such as salmonella infection, to thoroughly wash hands before and after handling food and cooking the food. It is equally important to wash your hands before and after feeding young children and the elderly, handling raw eggs or meat, using the toilet, handling pets, and changing diapers. Always ensure that food is thoroughly cooked as this destroys the bacterium.
- Avoid cross contamination by not using the same chopping board or utensils for raw meat, fish and other food, especially produce.
- Thoroughly clean knives and utensils
- Clean food preparation surfaces
- Prepare and store raw and cooked food separately
- Store raw meat and poultry on a shelf below any cooked foods
- Defrost poultry, meat and fish safely before cooking (never on the counter)
- Consume prepared food immediately
- Keep perishable food products in the refrigerator
- Wash salad items thoroughly
- Never eat raw eggs and avoid unpasteurized dairy products
A Final Word of Advice
As with all recalls that are issued by the FDA, it is always prudent to follow their advice. When it comes to this particular product, and due to the longevity of the shelf life of Honey Smacks puffed wheat cereal (up to one year), consumers should discard this product if they have it. Even if you have this type of cereal stored in a commercial container, you should throw it away as a precautionary measure. The FDA website (www.fda.gov) is an excellent, comprehensive, and up to date resource to consult whenever you have questions about a variety of food products regarding overall food safety. And, as always, follow the old adage of “when in doubt, throw it out!” Yes, right now.
Stay safe out there.
By: Kerry Bazany, Contributing Writer (Non-Lawyer)