A new study found on Tuesday, July 8, that a fungus that caused a yogurt recall last year poses a health risk to all consumers.
The recall occurred in September 2013 after consumers who ate Chobani brand Greek yogurt reported illness. After the company issued a recall, the yogurt was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides.
Experts say that this discovery calls for more in-depth research on fungi. “When people think about food-borne pathogens [germs], normally they list bacteria, viruses, and maybe parasites. Fungal pathogens are not considered as food-borne pathogens
However, this incidence indicates that we need to pay more attention to fungi. Fungal pathogens can threaten our health systems as food-borne pathogens,” said Soo Chan Lee, of Duke University, in a news release from the American Society for Microbiology.
The study also challenges previous knowledge about the fungus. Previously, it was thought that the fungus only posed a health threat to individuals with compromised immune systems.
However, many of those who suffered gastrointestinal illness from the contaminated yogurt recall were otherwise healthy with normal immune systems. The recall caused researchers to look more thoroughly at the fungus in the yogurt.
The researchers found that the strain of M. circinelloides that was in the yogurt and caused gastrointestinal illness is a strain that is commonly associated with infections in people.
Researchers investigated this by testing the strain on mice, where ti was found that the fungus strain could cause deadly infections in rodents. The study’s findings were published in the online journal mBio.
Representatives for Chobani refute the study’s findings, claiming that tests performed by the company found no trace of pathogens or germs. “Chobani conducted an aggressive, statistically significant series of tests of the products voluntarily recalled in September 2013 with third-party experts confirming the absence of food-borne pathogens.
Chobani stands by these findings, which are consistent with regulatory agency findings and the FDA’s [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] Class II classification of the recall on October 30, 2013,” stated Dr. Alejandro Mazzotta, Chobani vice president of Global Quality, Food Safety, and Regulatory Affairs.
Mazzota went on to add that they would be further looking into the study’s findings. “In regards to this specific study, we were just made aware of it and want to take more time to review its methodology and assertions.
To our knowledge, there is no evidence, including the assertions presented in this publication, that the strain in the recalled products causes illness in consumers when ingested. Food quality and safety has always been and always will be paramount to Chobani,” he said
He added that, after the recall in 2013, Chobani has “implemented additional state-of-the-art equipment for microbiological testing, and the company routinely conducts more than 500 microbiological tests daily from crafting and finished product samples, in excess of the regulatory requirements.”
It is estimated that each year, 48 million Americans get sick from contaminated foods, usually due to bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Symptoms include gastrointestinal issues, fever, and dehydration. In most cases increased water intake is recommended for treatment.