Some contamination is par for the course, says food safety expert
Forego these hash browns.
The McCain Foods USA tater products have been pulled for having golf ball pieces in them.
The voluntary recall notice on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration site explains that the frozen hash browns “may be contaminated with extraneous golf ball materials” that “may have been inadvertently harvested with potatoes used to make this product.” It warns that consuming these subpar taters “may pose a choking hazard or other physical injury to the mouth.” Because golf balls.
The impacted products include the Roundy’s Brand two-pound bag of Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns (UPC 001115055019) and the Harris Teeter Brand two-pound bag of Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns (UPC 007203649020) distributed after Jan. 19, 2017. The Roundy’s products riddled with golf ball parts were sold at Marianos, Metro Market and Pick ‘n Save supermarkets in Illinois and Wisconsin, while the affected Harris Teeter taters were distributed in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, D.C., Delaware, Florida, Georgia and Maryland.
There have been no injuries reported from anyone consuming the contaminated potatoes, yet.
McCain Foods USA hasn’t responded to Moneyish requests for comment on how exactly golf ball materials were “harvested” with potatoes. Golf balls are typically made with rubber and plastic.
But finding gross stuff in packaged food has become par for the course lately. Two Florida Walmart shoppers found a dead bat in their bag of Fresh Express Marketside Spring Mix prepackaged salad earlier this month. This lead to a precautionary recall of other organic greens from the same production run. And just days later, a Maryland couple found a live scorpion in a bag of store-brand spinach from Giant grocery store.
How does something like this happen? “We don’t see stuff like this all the time, but it’s actually not super surprising,” said Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist and associate professor at North Carolina State University, who’s been following foodborne illnesses and contamination for the past 15 years.
Critters creep into food because most fresh produce is gathered by huge machines that can easily harvest small dead animals or live insects along with the greens, which then end up in processing plants.
“Food grows outside, and these things are living outside,” Chapman said. “And these living things can cling to the underside of leaves or make it as a clump that gets into someone’s bag. There are supposed to be steps and processes in a food processing plant to check food and make sure this doesn’t happen, but sometimes, some things slip through.”
As for the golf balls, it’s possible that some balls landed in a potato field, and they were dug up along with the taters.
“The crops could be next to a driving range, or it could be as simple as a neighbor who likes to hit golf balls, and errant ones landed in the field,” said Chapman, who noted vegetable producers have complained to him about people throwing beer bottles into fields, which contaminates crops with broken glass that winds up in processing plants.
“Every once in awhile, these sorts of things happen,” Chapman said.
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