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If you cannot trust your food, then what can you trust? Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the "Top 10 Disgusting Food Recalls."
For this list, we're looking at recalls related to food or drinks. We’re ranking based on a combination of the gross-out factor and the recall's fallout.
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#10: Mac and Cheese, Kraft
There goes our comfort food. In 2015, Kraft issued a recall for their mac 'n' cheese due to the fear that their food product suffered from metal contamination. The threat was not restricted to one particular state or country, as six million boxes were withdrawn in the United States, Puerto Rico, and some areas of the Caribbean and South America. Thankfully, no injuries were reported, although Kraft related that eight consumer complaints were received regarding the product. Kraft responded with an apology to the consumers affected by the recall.
#9: Cookie Dough, Nestle USA
Get used to the term E. coli, as it tends to play a part in many recalls. Escherichia coli is a usually harmless bacteria which—in certain cases—can lead to food poisoning. In 2009, after eating Toll House refrigerated cookie dough, the FDA reported that more than 50 people were struck with food poisoning across 28 states. Once the news broke out, Nestle USA quickly issued a voluntary recall, but a number of people were unfortunately hospitalized. To try to avoid a repeat of the situation, Nestle started using heat-treated flour in the manufacturing process of the cookie dough.
#8: Farm Eggs, DeCoster & Hillandale Egg Farms
In the span of a single month of 2013, two separate farms issued nationwide recalls. Wright County Egg of Galt and Hillandale Farms of Iowa recalled more than 500 million eggs, distributed across a variety of American states, due to multiple reports of salmonella poisoning. DeCoster Egg Farms owned the former farm, and the FDA collected samples from both to test for salmonella. The investigation discovered strains in the manure, equipment, and chicken feed, linking the farms to the salmonella outbreak. Jack DeCoster and his son, Peter, were sentenced to 3 months in prison for the incident.
#7: Peanuts, Peanut Corporation of America
In 2009, Peanut Corporation of America was forced to recall over 3500 of its products due to a salmonella outbreak that left at least 700 victims in its wake. Some sources believe the number of people affected is actually in the thousands. Even worse, the FDA linked nine deaths to peanut products from a PCA processing plant in Blakely, Georgia, with peanut butter being the main culprit. A thorough investigation revealed that Stewart Parnell—owner of the peanut company—knew about the contamination but decided to ship the product anyway. Parnell was found guilty and sentenced to 28 years in a federal prison and his brother was sentenced to 20 years.
#6: Organic Marketside Spring Mix, Fresh Express
This entry is all about the gross-out factor. In 2017, two Florida consumers found a dead bat in their bag of Organic Marketside Spring Mix. The shocking news prompted Fresh Express to recall all salads manufactured during the same production cycle, a decision that only affected Walmart stores located in Southeastern states. Consumers were asked to throw away the mix and Fresh Express issued a full refund. As the people who bought the contaminated package had already eaten a bit of the salad, the CDC temporarily kept an eye on them to ensure they remained in good health.
#5: Beef, Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company
Affecting over 140 million pounds of meat, this 2008 recall was the largest meat recall in United States' history. Hallmark and the Westland Meat Packing Company were ordered to recall this massive quantity of meat by the USDA after coming under fire for animal cruelty. This was discovered by the Humane Society of the United States, who were given tapes of an undercover operation that caught workers abusing sickly animals on camera. The packing plant was investigated by the Food Safety and Inspection Service, who reported that Hallmark and Westland failed to properly inspect ill or disabled cattle. As the infected animals were allowed to be slaughtered and sold, the recall was conducted on two years’ worth of product.
#4: Spinach, Paicines Ranch
This was an outbreak that resulted in five tragic deaths and months of confusion. In 2006, the FDA surprised the nation by telling Americans to not eat bagged spinach. This announcement was done after more than 200 consumers in 26 states were hit by an E. coli virus. Eventually, the contamination was narrowed down to spinach planted by Mission Organics at a single California ranch. Besides the spinach grower, Natural Selection Foods and Dole Food Co. were also named in lawsuits relating to the outbreak, as they processed and packaged the spinach respectively.
#3: Cold Cuts, Maple Leaf Foods
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection that is especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, and newborns. In 2008, Canada suffered a nationwide outbreak that resulted in around 50 reported cases and over 20 deaths. The bacteria was traced back to cold cuts distributed by Maple Leaf Foods, who issued a voluntary recall before they were directly linked to the outbreak. The disease was traced back to two slicing machines at a single facility, and the factory came under fire for failing to properly clean the equipment. Multiple class action lawsuits were filed against Maple Leaf Foods, resulting in a settlement of $27 million.
#2: Milk & Baby Formula, Sanlu Group
This 2008 scandal in China led to over 50,000 hospitalized infants. In addition, between 4-6 babies died from kidney damage due to tainted baby formula. The drink was adulterated with melamine, a chemical that makes it seem like there is a higher protein content in the formula. This led to an estimated 300,000 infants suffering from protein deficiency and malnutrition. Government officials discovered this problem existed in over 20 companies and China's export industry took a massive hit. 21 people were put on trial, with three culprits receiving the death penalty, and another three sentenced to life in prison.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few dishonorable mentions.
- Glass in Special K Cereal, Kellogg’s
- Listeria monocytogenes bacterium in Cream Cheese Products, Panera Bread
- Wood Pulp in Parmesan Cheese, Castle Cheese Inc.
#1: Hot Dogs & Cold Cuts, Sara Lee Corporation
After learning of a potential contamination, this American consumer-goods company quickly issued a recall. Unfortunately, it was a little too late. Despite the Sara Lee Corporation's best efforts to minimize damages, the company's hot dogs were linked to around 15 deaths due to the meat being tainted with listeria. In 1998, Sara Lee recalled 15 million pounds of meat that were produced at its Bill Mar plant and later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. Consumers infected by the tainted meat took Sara Lee to court, with the company agreeing to settle the class-action lawsuit.