Chobani Recall Timeline
The Merman Law Firm is committed to helping victims of the recent Chobani Recall. We have put together this Chobani Recall Timeline to help consumers determine how and when they have been affected by the Chobani Recall.
Chobani Recall Timeline – History
Chobani, Inc. got its start in 2005, and its sales have grown rapidly since then. According to its website, the company now uses over four million pounds of milk each day in producing its popular Greek yogurt products. In 2010, Chobani became the #1 Greek yogurt product, and in 2011, it was the number one selling yogurt in the United States. That same year, the Twin Falls, Idaho facility was opened to keep up with production demands. (http://chobani.com/who-we-are/). Chobani had achieved great success, but the company was not without failings.
In March 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uncovered 34 violations at one of its plants that put its employees at risk for severe injury and health problems. In their report, OSHA investigators noted violations such as “lack of employee training and protection [and] toxic chemicals missing labels,” among others. “Chobani also failed to report to OSHA that some of its employees experienced hearing loss as a result of the work environment.” The company faced $178,000 in fines for those violations. (http://www.wbng.com/news/local/142723515.html).
Chobani Recall Timeline – The Recent Recall of Yogurt
Recently on the Ch0bani Recall Timeline, on August 31, 2013, Chobani, Inc. first posted in the “Community” section of its website in response to complaints of product bloating and swelling. There, the company stated that they had “voluntarily and proactively removed and replaced the majority of potentially affected products.” The company asked that consumers contact their Customer Loyalty Team directly to receive replacement products and assured that the quality standards used in producing their products extended to their customer service. (http://chobani.com/community/).
A new update was posted to the community page on September 3, 2013. The post included only the following information: “Our thorough investigation has identified a type of mold commonly found in the dairy environment. The product in question is less than 5% of our production and is limited to products produced at our Idaho facility, which accounts for only one third of our production capacity.” On September 5th, the company updated the page once again, stating that, “to be extra cautious” the company was now working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to initiate a voluntary recall, upgrading the voluntary withdrawal they originally initiated, and asking that customers discard the products identified in the voluntary recall announcement. (http://chobani.com/community/). Their website link from the community page provided that the “vast majority” – “over 95%” – of the units in question had already been removed from retailer shelves. (http://chobani.com/who-we-are/news/2013/09/05/voluntary-recall/).
The problem was that the products had not been removed from customers’ refrigerators. Many consumers did not yet know about the recall and continued to eat the products. News sources noted that the FDA’s official involvement came one week after Chobani’s attempt to “quietly remove the yogurt from store shelves without alerting the public, a strategy the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called ‘unusual.’” (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/52927672/ns/health-health_care/t/chobani-recalls-moldy-yogurt-after-complaints-fda-probe/).
The day after the voluntary recall was announced by the FDA (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm367298.htm), in an attempt to put their customers at ease, Chobani provided an opinion from a Cornell University professor of food science on September 6, 2013. That professor, Randy Worobo, stated that the type of mold Chobani claimed was responsible for the product bloating and swelling, Mucor circinelloides, would not cause a threat to “most consumers.” The quote from Mr. Worobo and used by Chobani on its community page follows:
“Mucor circinelloides is a species of mold commonly associated with fruits, vegetables and dairy that has been reported to cause spoilage like swelling and bloating in yogurt. It is not considered a disease-causing foodborne microorganism. This mold should not pose a health risk to most consumers. Very rarely, it can act as an opportunistic pathogen, but not through food and usually only for people with compromised immune systems through inhalation. The organism is regularly used for the production of natural flavor compounds that are widely used in the food industry.” (http://chobani.com/community/).
Chobani Recall Timeline – Illnesses Reported
Since Chobani first announced the Voluntary Recall on September 5, 2013, the number of individuals reporting actual symptoms of illness after consuming the recalled products – not simply complaints of product bloating – has grown steadily. By September 10, 2013, major media sources had picked-up the story and were announcing that the FDA had received at least 89 complaints from those claiming nausea, cramps, and other symptoms caused by the company’s Greek yogurt products, along with the reports of product swelling, fizziness and bloating. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-204_162-57602200/fda-chobani-products-may-have-sickened-more-than-89-people/); (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/fda-receives-89-reports-illness-yogurt-20210604); (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/10/chobani-illnesses_n_3900115.html). At that time, an FDA spokesperson said the administration was not yet investigating Chobani, but was merely assisting the company in the recall. (http://magicvalley.com/news/local/fda-receives-reports-of-illness-from-chobani-yogurt/article_328cf34a-d61c-522b-b83e-6c2090a033d9.html).
By September 12, 2013, 118 people had reported gastrointestinal problems to the FDA (http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2013/09/chobani_yogurt_recall_more_ill.html), and by September 13, 2013, the number had risen to 170 people complaining of cramps, nausea, headache and diarrhea. (http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2013/09/chobani_yogurt_recall_170_comp.html). On September 16, news broke that the FDA had actually visited the Twin Falls, Idaho facility from which the recalled yogurt was allegedly distributed. However, the FDA’s inspectors did not issue a “Form 483,” which is a report issued by the FDA when an inspection uncovers evidence that a food product has been prepared or stored in a way that poses risks of adulteration or contamination. (http://www.nbcnews.com/health/chobani-yogurt-plant-inspection-yields-no-fda-report-4B11174595). At that time, Chobani may have been implying that its suppliers were to blame when a company spokesperson commented: “‘We are working closely with our suppliers and have taken corrective actions designed to prevent this issue from happening again.’” (http://www.nbcnews.com/health/chobani-yogurt-plant-inspection-yields-no-fda-report-4B11174595). Though no formal Form 483 was issued, the FDA was still citing the recall as an “open investigation” after 223 complaints had poured-in by September 17, 2013. (http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2013/09/chobani_yogurt_recall_complain.html).
Consumers continued to post comments in response to news stories and to Chobani’s own Facebook page. They reported severe gastrointestinal symptoms, complained of the slow response, or complete lack of response, from Chobani, and stated that they continued to see recalled products on retailer shelves. (http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/16/20529114-chobani-yogurt-plant-inspection-yields-no-fda-report?d=1); (https://www.facebook.com/Chobani). By that time, NBC News had uncovered its own professor of food science, Don Schaffner of Rutgers University, who commented: “‘I’m guessing the source may have been a fruit filling that let the organism into the plant and then poor sanitation allowed it to spread to the implicated products.’” (http://www.nbcnews.com/health/chobani-yogurt-plant-inspection-yields-no-fda-report-4B11174595). The question persists: What exactly caused the severity of illness people experienced after eating Chobani? No feasible explanation has come from the company itself.
Chobani Recall Timeline – Investigation
We are currently investigating whether the reported illnesses may have been caused by a contaminant other than the Mucor circinelloides referenced by Chobani, as well as whether the scope of the contamination extends beyond the products mentioned in the recall. We are currently pursuing every possible link between our clients’ illnesses and the yogurt they consumed. If you’d like more information on how food poisoning outbreaks are investigated by the authorities, visit our Food Poisoning FAQ page: https://thefoodpoisoninglawyers.com/food-poisoning-faqs. If you suspect that you have suffered from symptoms of food poisoning as a result of consuming Chobani Greek yogurt products, call us for a free case evaluation, toll-free at 1-855-Merman5. We are here to help.