General Mills, Minneapolis, is collaborating with health officials to investigate an ongoing, multi-state outbreak of E. coli O121 that may be potentially linked to Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour and Signature Kitchens flour, sold in Safeway, Albertsons, Jewel, Shaws, Vons, United, Randalls and Acme stores. Out of an abundance of caution, the company issued a voluntary recall on Tuesday, May 31.
To date, E. coli O121 has not been found in any General Mills flour products or in the flour manufacturing facility, and the company has not been contacted directly by any consumer reporting confirmed illnesses related to these products, it stated in a release. The company reported state and federal authorities have been researching 38 occurrences of illnesses across 20 states related to a specific type of E. coli (E. coli O121), between December 21, 2015 and May 3, 2016. While attempting to track the cause of the illness, the Centers for Disease Control found that about half of the individuals reported making something homemade with flour at some point before becoming ill, according to the General Mills news release. Some reported using a General Mills brand of flour.
Based on the information shared with General Mills, some of the ill consumers may have also consumed raw dough or batter. Consumers are reminded to not consume any raw products made with flour, the release stated. An ingredient that comes from milling wheat, flour is grown outdoors, and carries with it risks of bacteria that are rendered harmless by baking, frying or boiling. Consumers are reminded to wash their hands, work surfaces and utensils thoroughly after contact with raw dough products or flour, the company said, and to never eat raw dough or batter.
"As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour," explained Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills' Baking division.
The recall affects retail flour products that could be currently in stores or in consumers’ pantries, including six stock-keeping units or UPC codes of Gold Medal flour, 2 SKU’s of Signature Kitchens flour and one SKU of Gold Medal Wondra flour.
Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but E. coli O121, the one found in the 38 sick people, is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. Seniors, children and people with compromised immune systems are most at risk. The company's website has information on the flour batches affected at www.generalmills.com/flour. More information and is also available from the company's consumer relations phone number at 1-800-230-8103.