General Mills has issued a major recall of products sold under its Gold Medal Flour label. The voluntary recall, announced Tuesday, covers 10 million pounds of flour, according to USA Today, and it's related to an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 38 people in 20 states.
"As a leading provider of flour for 150 years, we felt it was important to not only recall the product and replace it for consumers if there was any doubt, but also to take this opportunity to remind our consumers how to safely handle flour," Liz Nordlie, president of General Mills baking division, said in a prepared statement.
The company is working with health officials to investigate an outbreak of E. coli strain O121, which dates back to December. General Mills says the outbreak may be potentially connected to Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour, and Signature Kitchens flour, but so far E. coli has not been found in any of its products or in its flour-manufacturing facility in Kansas City, Mo.
The recall notice describes E. coli O121 as "a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration." Seniors, the very young, and persons with compromised immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illnesses such as E. coli. Some of those sickened in the outbreak may have consumed raw dough or batter, which General Mills does not recommend.
Last year, once-beloved burrito chain Chipotle was dogged by a national E. coli outbreak, which played a part in changing how the company operates. Earlier this year, a nine-state outbreak was connected to the Iowa-based Pizza Ranch chain.
Update: June 1, 10:15 a.m. A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control tells Eater 10 people have been hospitalized in connection to the latest E. coli outbreak, but no deaths have been reported. The CDC is working with state health officials and the Food and Drug Administration to investigate. The agency has not released which states, exactly, have been affected, but it will "post more information about the outbreak investigation as soon as possible."