WASHINGTON (AP) -- A wide range of processed foods -- including soups, snack foods, dips and dressings -- is being recalled after salmonella was discovered in a flavor-enhancing ingredient.
Food and Drug Administration officials said Thursday that the ingredient, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, is used in thousands of food products, though it was unclear how many of them will be recalled. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no illnesses or deaths have been reported.
The officials said the recall, which dates to products manufactured since Sept. 17, is expected to expand in the coming days and weeks. It only involves hydrolyzed vegetable protein manufactured by Las Vegas-based Basic Food Flavors Inc., which did not return a call for comment Thursday.
The agency said Thursday it collected and analyzed samples at the Las Vegas facility after one of the company's customers discovered the salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children and others with weakened immune systems. The FDA then confirmed the presence of a strain of salmonella in the company's processing equipment.
Jeffrey Farrar, associate commissioner for food protection at the FDA, said Thursday that many products that contain the ingredient are not dangerous because the risk of salmonella is eliminated after the food has been cooked. Many of the foods involved in the recall are ready-to-eat items that are not cooked by the consumer.
"At this time we believe the risk to consumers is very low," Farrar said.
A list of more than 50 recalled foods on the FDA Web site includes several dips manufactured by T. Marzetti, Sweet Maui Onion potato chips manufactured by Tim's Cascade Snacks, Tortilla Soup mix made by Homemade Gourmet and several prepackaged "Follow Your Heart" tofu meals manufactured by Earth Island.
The FDA said the contamination was discovered by a new tracking system implemented to improve tracing of foodborne illnesses.