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In December 2011, USDA tested samples of “Cut Above” brand shredded bagged lettuce and spinach from Nicho Produce Company, Inc. (Edinburg, TX). And found Listeria monocytogenes.

These positive test results prompted the company to initiate a recall of the affected production lots. If you don’t remember this recall, you’re not alone. There was no press release issued. It was announced by letter.

The positive test results also triggered an inspection of Nicho’s processing facility by FDA. According to a Warning Letter issued on May 21, 2012 and posted earlier today on the FDA website, 12 out of the 72 environmental samples taken during the inspection yielded Listeria monocytogenesincluding on direct food-contact surfaces. The strains recovered from the processing facility matched the strains found by USDA in the spinach and lettuce samples.

Nicho issued a second recall notice on December 19th, at the end of FDA’s inspection. Once again, the recall was announced only by letter. I learned about the recalls in mid-February, – TWO MONTHS AFTER THEY WERE “ANNOUNCED” – courtesy of FDA’s Weekly Enforcement Report for February 15, 2012. As I posted on February 19th, the Nicho Produce “A Cut Above” recall encompassed 33 different items, distributed in Texas.

This is an egregious example of a Class I recall that SHOULD have been announced to the public. It should not have taken two months for FDA to release information about the recall. I realize that the recall affected produce that was distributed only in one state. But the extent of distribution should not have been a deciding factor. Residents of Texas deserve to know when a contaminated food has been circulating in their midst. As do the rest of us.

It’s time to put an end to stealth recalls.

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