Kellogg’s Cereal Recall Extends Salmonella Outbreak Trend

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By Steven M. Sellers

Kellogg Co. issued a nationwide recall of its Honey Smacks cereal in the wake of a 31-state salmonella outbreak that has sickened 73 and hospitalized 24 people so far, the Food and Drug Administration said June 14.

The puffed wheat cereal in 15.3-ounce and 23-ounce boxes “is a likely source of this multistate outbreak,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The outbreak is the latest in a spate of salmonella illness outbreaks that have hit a variety of food and dietary supplements this year, including shell eggs, dried coconut, kratom, raw sprouts, and cut melons.

Questions also remain over the identity of a third-party manufacturer that produced the bacteria-tainted cereal.

Kellogg, based in Battle Creek, Mich., said in its June 14 recall notice that it “launched an investigation with the third-party manufacturer who produces Honey Smacks” immediately after the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration reported the outbreak.

But it declined to identify that manufacturer June 15.

“We do not disclose the names of our third-party manufacturing partners,” Kellogg’s media relations office told Bloomberg Law in an email.

Even so, litigation likely awaits Kellogg, its suppliers, and retailers, according to an experienced food safety lawyer.

“I’m certain cases will emerge from this outbreak,” Fred Pritzker, of Pritzker Hageman in Minneapolis, told Bloomberg Law June 15. “I just got off the phone not five minutes ago with a potential client.”

But it also takes time to identify the genetic fingerprint of salmonella—which has more than 2,400 different strains—and to confirm a sickness was caused by a specific product, said Pritzker, who focuses on foodborne illness litigation.The full extent of the outbreak of Salmonella Mbandaka also remains to be seen. Affected products may still be on household shelves, and it can take 12 to 72 hours for symptoms to develop.

Potentially tainted cereal was also shipped to Guam, Saipan, Costa Rica, Guatamala, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Tahiti, the FDA said.

Salmonella, a bacteria that causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, causes about a million illnesses, 19,000 hospitalizations, and 380 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington at ssellers@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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