Tyson installing metal-detecting X-ray machines after chicken recall

Tyson Foods Inc., the producer of processed meats, will recall nearly 12 million pounds of frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strip products due to metal contamination concerns, the US Department of Agriculture said over the weekend. The recall was expanded from the 70,000 pounds (35 tons) of chicken strips announced by the company in March.

“The frozen, ready-to-eat chicken strip items were produced on various dates from Oct. 1, 2018 through March 8, 2019 and have ‘use by dates’ of Oct. 1, 2019 through March 7, 2020,” the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said in a statement Saturday. This chart contains a list of the products subject to recall.

It’s not an uncommon issue. CTI Foods, a privately held company, said last December it would recall almost 30,000 pounds of Jimmy Dean sausage links after five consumers said they found metal particles. R.L. Zeigler Co. said in January it would recall 11,664 pounds of ready-to-eat poultry and meat sausage products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials — specifically metal.

The Tyson problem was discovered when the Food Safety and Inspection Service received two consumer complaints of “extraneous material” in the chicken-strip products. The Department of Agriculture said it’s now aware of six complaints during this time frame involving similar pieces of metal, with three consumers alleging injury when they attempted to eat them.

Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a health care provider, the USDA said. The government agency also said it’s concerned that some of this chicken may still be sitting in people’s freezers. “Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them,” it said. “These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.”

“Our company is taking corrective action,” said Barbara Masters, vice president of regulatory food policy, food and agriculture for Tyson. “We have discontinued use of the specific equipment believed to be associated with the metal fragments and we will be installing metal-detecting X-ray machinery to replace the plant’s existing metal-detection system.”

“Consumers expect that the food they eat is safe,” she added. “In their best interest and in an abundance of caution we’re taking quick and decisive action to expand this recall.” Tyson will also be using a third-party video auditing system for metal detection verification, Masters said. “It is unacceptable to Tyson Foods that any product might not meet our standards,” she added.

On Monday, Tyson also reported fiscal second-quarter net income of $426 million, or $1.17 per share, up from $315.0 million, or 85 cents per share, last year. Tyson shares are up 44.4 percent in 2019, compared with 12.6 percent for the Dow Jones Industrial Index and 16.4 percent for the S&P 500 over the same period.

Consumer advocates are not just concerned about meat contamination. Lead was found in 20 percent of baby food samples, compared with 14 percent of samples of adult foods, according to a 2017 Environmental Defense Fund analysis of Food and Drug Administration data. Lead was most commonly found in fruit juices, sweet potatoes and teething biscuits.

There’s no safe level of lead, according to the EDF. Some 500,000 children have elevated blood lead levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children face the highest risks from such contamination, including behavioral problems and lower IQs. It can also cause high blood pressure and kidney damage in adults.

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