Wednesday, June 15, 2011


The giant food manufacturer, Kellogg, has been put on notice by the FDA for bacterial contamination at its Atlanta, Georgia plant, and told to quickly clean up its act (see previous blog). And, some 21 months ago, the same bacteria - Listeria monocytogenes - was found in its Augusta, Georgia plant. I notice from the incoming searches on this blog that people are wondering whether Kellogg's cereals are safe to eat. Mothers of young children are particularly concerned - and sensibly so.

As far as I know, these two bad cases of food plant contamination took place at company plants which did not manufacture cereal. The 2009-2010 incident was at a plant that made Eggo waffles and some other frozen foods. The current one is at a plant that makes Famous Amos and Keebler cookies. Cereal manufacture involves a different process and different types of equipment and plant conditions. This is such a big company, it has multiple plants.

Yes, there was a huge recall of Kellogg's cereals just about a year ago, when consumers noticed an odd smell and taste in several of the cereals. In all, some 28 million boxes of Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and Honey Smacks cereal were recalled worldwide. The cause was chemical - not bacterial. (You can't smell or taste bacteria.) In this case, the wax paper liners used in cereal packaging were releasing hydrocarbons, including methyl naphthalene. We don't know much about how this chemical affects health, and reportedly the levels were pretty low. Kellogg made sure that the problem will not occur again by recalling all the affected products and destroying the remaining toxic packaging materials. The FDA was satisfied with actions taken.

As for bacteria turning up in a cereal plant - yes, in theory it can happen. If it did occur, my money would be on Salmonella (which does well in dry conditions) rather than Listeria monocytogenes (which turned up in the two incidents mentioned). Personally, I would be more concerned about mold toxin contamination in cereal than bacteria. (I must remember to blog this).

As far as I know, there have been no reports of bacterial contamination of Kellogg cereal at least in recent years. So, you can assume that it is "safe to eat" from that viewpoint. But in food safety, the unexpected occurs, so I make no promises for the future.

To your good health,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the warning. I play it safe , or safer, though, by eating cooked oats for breakfast, rather than pre-packaged cereals. The cooking process of bring the oats to the boil for several minutes should kill any lurking bacteria.