Maine officials say they have received no reports from anyone who may have gotten sick from Chobani yogurt since the company announced a recall of the Greek-style product because some containers were moldy.
Although the state has not received any reports of illnesses, one Maine woman told the Portland Press Herald that she bought and consumed Chobani yogurt and became ill.
The company started contacting individual retailers last week, saying some shipments should be pulled off the shelves. On Thursday Chobani announced a broad voluntary recall of yogurt with the lot number 16-012 with expiration dates between Sept. 11 and Oct. 7, including shipments that made their way to Maine.
Ron Dyer, director of quality assurance regulation at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said the department has received no reports so far of people buying tainted yogurt or becoming ill in Maine.
Dyer said it is not uncommon for the department to be notified of a recall and then to distribute that information to its 15 inspectors, who are in the field ensuring that stores don’t sell the tainted product.
“We get something once a week or so,” Dyer said. “Some products are in Maine. Some not. We don’t cover everything. We try to keep an eye on the bigger ones.”
Often the problem is mislabeled items — for instance, items that contain peanuts or eggs but without indication on the label. Retailers are generally very cooperative, he said.
The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture work together when they receive complaints of food-borne illnesses to identify the source and make sure the item is no longer available, he said.
Customers who bought the tainted yogurt told Chobani that the filling caused the cups to swell and had a peculiar taste. Some people reported becoming ill after eating it, the company said in a press release posted on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.
The company said it identified the mold as being a type that is common in dairy operations. The tainted yogurt was produced in its facility in Idaho.
The FDA reported that 21 people nationwide had called the agency to complain about the tainted yogurt and another 23 sent emails. Consumers who bought any of the affected containers are advised to contact the company for a refund, at chobani.com/care.
Michelle Paige, a Wells resident, told the Press Herald she bought several Chobani yogurts from the Hannaford in Kennebunk two weeks ago.
“I ate it and thought, this tastes kind of funny. This is odd, I don’t remember Chobani tasting like this,” she said.
Paige said she ate one container almost every day for a week, but didn’t think much about the taste because she attributed it to the yogurt flavor clashing with salad dressings.
“I ate it every day and they all tasted funny. I thought it was me,” she said. “On that Friday night, I was sitting in bed and thought, ‘I think I’m going to throw up.’“
Paige saw a doctor because of nausea and an earache. She threw away the rest of her Chobanis after she discovered the lids were puffed, “like they were going to explode.”
She said she sent an email to Chobani on Thursday but has not received a response.
An FDA spokesman said the agency sometimes becomes aware of contaminated food products from consumers.
“Whether a complaint comes in to our consumer complaint line or through an adverse event report through our Medwatch system (which tracks reactions to certain medicines and medical foods), we have a team of medical officers that examine each one to determine whether there is causality between the report and the product,” the spokesman said.
In this case, Chobani started alerting individual stores last week but did not issue a general recall until Thursday. The FDA has said it is working with the company to look into whether it communicated with the public appropriately.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: