MINNEAPOLIS -- Malt-O-Meal Co. here has recalled all plain toasted-oat breakfast cereals marketed under the Malt-O-Meal brand name and 38 private labels, because they have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella serotype agona.
The recall began when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta identified the Millville brand of Toasted Oats, distributed by Aldi supermarkets, as being linked to an outbreak of salmonella poisoning.
The Batavia, Ill.-based chain removed the cereal from its shelves June 1, when it first learned that an investigation was in progress at the Malt-O-Meal plant in Northfield, Minn., according to a news release issued by the company.
"We are making sure that every customer who has been affected in any way is being visited by a company district manager," said Philip Whitfield, spokesman for the retailer. "We are calling on every customer, and we've asked them to contact Malt-O-Meal to see what action they've taken."
Leann Tatge, administrative assistant to Malt-O-Meal's president, John Lettmann, is advising consumers who have questions about the company's products to call 1-800-743-3029.
Anyone who has experienced illness after consuming toasted oat cereal is asked to call 1-800-590-1810.
"The Millville brand and the Malt-O-Meal brand are the only ones that are suspect, but the company is voluntarily recalling all plain toasted oats," said Tatge.
The recall affects Toasty O's and Toasted Oats varieties of Malt-O-Meal cereal, as well as plain Toasted Oats marketed under these regionally distributed store brands: Acme, America's Choice (A&P), Bi-Lo, Cub, Delchamps, Eagle, Finast, Flavorite, Food Club, Foodland, Fry's, Hannaford Bros., Harris Teeter, Hill Country Fare (H.E. Butt), IGA, Janet Lee (Albertson's), Jewel, Kingston, Kroger, Laura Lynn (Ingles), Lucky, Meijer, Millville (Aldi), Nature's Best, Our Family (Nash Finch), Pathmark, Safeway, Schnuck's, Shaw's, Signature (FSA), Shop N Save, Smith's, Stater Bros., Sweetlife, Tops, Value Wise, Weis and Western Family.
The plain toasted-oat cereals are packaged in 10-, 15-, 32- and 40-ounce bags, as well as 15-, 20- and 35-ounce boxes. Any consumer with the product should return it to the retailer where it was purchased, Malt-O-Meal advised in a press release.
Whitfield told SN that Aldi is providing customers with a refund on flavored varieties of the same cereal, if they request it, even though those items were not affected by the recall. He also noted that any possible litigation would be handled by the manufacturer's insurance company.
So far the salmonella outbreak has made 211 people sick in 12 Midwestern and Northeastern states, according to the CDC. Forty-seven people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported.
It is not known how the cereal may have been contaminated, since salmonella is most often spread through animal products such as raw or undercooked meat, eggs, fish and poultry.
While the Associated Press reported early speculations by Malt-O-Meal's president Lettmann about a possible source of contamination, Tatge told SN that the investigation is continuing and no conclusions have been drawn.
"No conclusions have been made," said Tatge, "and the regulatory agencies have asked us to withhold further comments. The next communication will be from the regulatory agencies."
Sources for the contamination are being investigated by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration.
Illinois was the hardest-hit state, with 46 reported cases. Additional cases were reported in Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin and West Virginia.