It's been a while since I've posted a Friday Food Freak-Out column. And this hasn't been laziness on my part, but just a kind of lull. Surprisingly, it's been a while since some manner of corporate dumb-assery, endangered-species-announcements or adventures in unsafe food handling have actually required one.
I didn't know SpaghettiO's had a Doomsday Clock
But today, we get a double dose (no pun intended) of rage and panic, because not only is there a high-risk, Class 1 salmonella-related Marie Callender's recall (of all forms of the frozen Cheesy Chicken and Rice dinners) going on, but also a massive recall of SpaghettiOs with meatballs that has roots stretching all the way back to 2008.
The Marie Callender's recall is over fears that the frozen Cheesy Chicken whatevers are infected with Salmonella Chester (which, it should be noted, is the worst blues singer name ever), which has already sickened 29 people in 14 states. Here's what the USDA has to say:
"The company is recalling all Marie Callender's brand Cheesy Chicken and Rice frozen meals in commerce, regardless of production date. These products are being recalled after the company was informed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of an investigation involving 29 people in 14 states who have been diagnosed with salmonellosis linked to Salmonella serotype Chester. Eight of the case-patients specifically reported eating this product in April and May, 2010, prior to illness onset; the last reported illness was reported on May 22."
The SpaghettiOs recall, on the other hand, is a bit stranger. For starters, no one has actually been sickened yet and the recall is being categorized as an example of "possible under-processing"--which, I have to say, has got to be the first time anyone has ever accused SpaghettiOs of being under-processed.
What happened was, one of the gigantic cookers used in the industrial production of SpaghettiOs with Meatballs wasn't working properly. It was under-cooking the cans or the balls or the O's or whatever. This was discovered during "a routine warehouse inspection by the company," according to the USDA, and inspired a recall dating all the way back to cans produced in 2008.
So what you're telling me, asks the wise consumer, is that no one has bothered to check the machine or machines in question at any point over the past two years?
That appears to be the case at the moment. The current recall covers cans of SpaghettiOs With Meatballs, SpaghettiOs A to Z With Meatballs and SpaghettiOs Fun Shapes With Meatballs (Cars variety) produced between December 2008 and June 2010 and marked with the establishment number EST 4K. Taken together, this amounts to 15 million pounds of SpaghettiOs being pulled from cupboards and store shelves out of "an abundance of caution," according to a statement by Campbell's.