FDA: Idaho Knew About Chobani Mold Issue Before Yogurts Started Exploding

chobani_blorpLast year, fungal contamination in yogurt made in Chobani’s new plant in Idaho led to problems with their products distributed nationwide. These problems ranged from “this yogurt tastes funny” to in-fridge explosions to dozens of illnesses that consumers attributed to the yogurt. Now, the Idaho plant’s local newspaper has learned that the state government may have known about the mold contamination long before any yogurts were pulled from stores.

Reports of problematic yogurts began to surface across the country around the beginning of September 2013, but it turns out that the problem may have been caught back in July. The Twin Falls Times-News obtained a Food and Drug Administration report about plant inspections through a federal Freedom of Information Act request. In that report, the FDA reports that inspectors from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture discovered the mold, Mucor circinelloides, on equipment in the plant.

The report describes state inspectors’ discovery of “yeast-like growth” in samples taken from the plant.

In July the routine Grade A sampling and testing samples taken by the Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) from the Chobani Idaho Inc. production were visually noted, by the laboratory technician, that surface defects were present and additional testing was conducted noting a yeast like growth developing in the yogurt samples. ISDA followed-up with Chobani Idaho Inc. and the firm reviewed their keeping quality samples and found some samples beginning to show signs of swelling.

The report is redacted in parts to protect certain information from reaching Chobani’s competitors in the yogurt industry, but the report goes on to describe a thorough cleaning of the plant. However, things get confusing from here: a spokesperson for the state says that state inspectors did not discover mold during a July inspection, and that the agency doesn’t know where that information came from. If the information in the FDA report is true, it would mean that state regulators and Chobani knew that there was mold growing in its products for months, and let yogurt from the plant be distributed anyway.

State Knew Chobani Yogurt was Tainted Months before Recall, FDA Says [Twin Falls Times-News] (via Food Safety News)
FDA Chobani Inspection [Twin Falls Times-News]