Peanut-Contaminated Cumin Leads to Massive Allergy Recall
Newer article – Inside the Cumin Product Recalls – is here.
The following was posted Jan. 22, 2015 and updated March 13. The chart was updated April 7, 2015.
WHAT started as a single company recalling spice products due to the undeclared presence of peanut in cumin has snowballed into the most widespread series of allergy-related recalls since the U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) came into effect in 2006.
Hundreds of products produced by dozens of companies are affected, so it’s essential for those dealing with peanut allergies to become aware of the situation and to check to see whether products they purchased are among the recalls (see links below).
Aside from spice mixes, hummus and even bread crumbs, the USDA tells Allergic Living that nearly 600,000 pounds of seasoned beef, poultry and pork products have been pulled off the market. A single Pennsylvania company recalled more than 35,000 pounds of its chili products. Another company recalled more than 500 of its spice products from shelves nationwide. The common culprit ingredient in all cases is the peanut-contaminated cumin.
This blitz of peanut-related recalls began* at the end of 2014 when Adams Flavors, Foods and Ingredients, a Texas company, issued a voluntary recall for several of its spice products after being notified by one of its suppliers that the cumin it purchased contained undeclared peanut proteins. (*Feb. 13 update: Allergic Living has received clarification that these recalls technically began with a Reily Foods recall in December for both peanut and almond spice contamination, but the Adams recall was the first of the numerous peanut-only ones.)
Since then, a huge number of cumin-related recalls have been issued by several companies, both in the Texas area and nationwide. From the beginning of 2015, the number of companies issuing tainted cumin-related recalls has expanded into the double-digits, and continues to rise; a trickle-down effect as news of the potential contamination makes its way through the supply chain.
“We were notified by our supplier, after theirs notified them,” says Jim English, president of Campos Foods in Tennessee, a company that recalled 5,300 pounds of chicken products due to peanut-contaminated cumin. At the time of this article, his company was in the process of sorting out the total cost involved but, for several companies, the recall losses will be huge.
English believes the only way to prevent similar occurrences in the future is greatly increased awareness on all levels of the food supply chain.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has so far recalled one product because of the same issue – Morningstar Farms black bean burgers. CFIA told Allergic Living that it continues to monitor the contaminated cumin situation. If you are in Canada, check the CFIA’s recalls page for the most up-to-date information.
(Three Canadian brands also recalled similar products in fall 2014 for peanut and almond contamination: taco seasoning, taco sauce and curry powder – all very likely to contain cumin. Despite the similarity, CFIA says that, at this point, there has not been any link established to the current U.S. situation.)
The massive series of recalls across the U.S. is a source of anxiety and great concern to anyone managing a peanut allergy. The following questions and answers are designed to help address reader questions and concerns.
Do all of the recalled cumin and cumin-containing spices come from the same source?
Not all, but some. Several were tied directly to the Adams Flavors recall, but the USDA told Allergic Living that they do not all stem from the same supplier. However, many of the recalled products do seem to follow a pattern of being sold towards the end of 2014 or in early 2015.
How did the contamination occur?
[See our updated article here.] It’s not known for certain yet, but in at least some cases it appears to have happened overseas, during handling and processing in the product’s originating country. An FDA spokesperson told Allergic Living that its investigation into the case is continuing, so expect more details to become available.
Have there been any fatal allergic reactions?
Thankfully, there have been no deaths. For news related to reports of allergic reactions to these products, see our updated article here. If you or an allergic family member may have had a reaction to a food that likely contained cumin, it is important that you report it to your local FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator.
I have a peanut allergy. Should I avoid cumin and products seasoned with it for the foreseeable future?
As of February 2015, for those with peanut allergy, the FDA is recommending avoidance of products that contain ground cumin or cumin spice. If this is an issue, you could also contact the manufacturer of a suspect food to check whether it or any of its suppliers were included in one of the recalls. (See also: How to Find Safe Spiced Foods). Representatives of both the FDA and USDA have told Allergic Living that it’s likely even more products will be recalled in the near future due to peanut-contaminated cumin.
Important Note: It’s also most important to take into consideration that, under U.S. labeling rules, individual spices don’t have to be declared, so just because a product’s ingredients list doesn’t specifically mention “cumin”, it doesn’t mean cumin isn’t present. It may be hidden behind words like “spices” or “flavor”. In addition, cumin is part of many spice blends such as chili powder and curry, making its presence possible in a very wide variety of foods.
Consumers with peanut allergy who are concerned about the recalls should exercise caution and be aware that cumin is likely to be present in Tex-Mex and Indian foods.
For more details on products affected by the recalls, including lot numbers and label photos, see the chart below. For the latest information, be sure to check the official FDA and USDA recalls pages.
*These are part of an earlier recall for peanut and almond contamination in cumin spice. One official said it does not appear to be part of the same series of cumin recalls, but be aware of those recalled items too.
See also: March 20, 2015 cumin recall in Canada.