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Possible Listeria contamination leads to recall at Phillips

by Tad Thompson | February 04, 2009
Phillips Mushroom Farms L.P., based in Kennett Square, PA, announced the recall of its Enoki mushrooms. While no illnesses had been reported as of Feb. 3, the recall was based on the mushrooms potentially being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Kevin Donovan, sales manager at Phillips, told The Produce News Feb. 3 that the problem was discovered as a result of a Jan. 13 food-safety audit, but the potential problem wasn't brought to Phillips' attention until the weekend of Jan. 31.

"We are still investigating" the cause of the problem, Mr. Donovan said.

A Feb. 1 press release indicated that the recall was the result of testing on a single sample of finished product taken during a routine product evaluation. The Listeria find is only associated with "Enoki mushrooms and no other products," according to the press release. Within Phillips' product line, Enoki "is a minor product, but this still causes a lot of problems," Mr. Donovan said. "Especially for our customers and the consumers, there is a lot of concern."

Mr. Donovan said there has been no backlash against Phillips' other mushroom products not involved with the recall.

Phillips' food-safety program and third-party audit program were effective in discovering the problem, Mr. Donovan said. "We were not informed until over the weekend, when we issued a press release on Sunday (Feb. 1) and a recall notice officially went to our customers on Monday. There are no confirmed illnesses so far. We are into the recall mode, and it looks like we've done what we are supposed to do. We are getting the information out and notifying all the people we need to notify."

He said that in recent days he had received "calls from people that are concerned about the products. The response from our distributors and our customers has been very good. They are taking care of it. They are also very busy with peanuts," he said, referring to a nationwide recall involving some peanut products.

Phillips "stopped shipping product right away" upon notice of a potential problem, Mr. Donovan said. Further testing was underway in early February, "and we hope to resume production shortly."

Included in the recall are 3.5-ounce, four-ounce and one-pound packages of Enoki mushrooms. The mushrooms were packed in clear plastic bags with red, blue or green graphics panels and were sold from Jan. 13 to Jan. 30 through retail and foodservice outlets.