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RECALL: Chobani recalls some yogurt lots for mold, illness reports

2:04 PM, Sep 5, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS News) Chobani, a popular brand of Greek yogurt, is recalling some of its products following reports of mold in containers and illnesses in customers.

The company said on its website Thursday that it moved to a voluntary recall of products in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration after receiving claims of illnesses, and to ensure every single potentially-affected product is removed from store shelves.

"We won't sugar coat it --- this type of mold is not pleasant," the company said. "While unlikely to have ill health effects upon consumption, nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our consumers, and we are taking all of the necessary steps to uphold our very rigid quality standard."

Affected products have a code of "16-012," and expiration dates between 9/11/2013 and 10/7/2013. No other products are included in the recall at this time.

People are asked to throw these affected products out and contact Chobani for a replacement.

At the end of August, the company said it began to hear concerns around certain products which had containers that appeared to look swollen and bloated.

The company said on its website Aug. 31 that at that time, it began to proactively remove and replace the majority of the affected products, while asking customers to contact them to coordinate replacements.

By Sept. 3, the company said it had identified the mold, commonly found in dairy, in less than 5 percent of its products.

The voluntary recall was then announced this morning, Sept. 5.

Company CEO Hamdi Ulukaya said in a letter to customers Thursday that the mold was found in a limited amount of product that came from the company's Idaho facility, located in Twin Falls. The Idaho facility only accounts for one-third of the company's total production, according to the Chobani website.

"While this type of mold is common in the dairy environment, particularly when using only natural ingredients that are absent of artificial preservatives, it's still unacceptable to me and all of our yogurt makers," said Ulukaya.

He added to the Associated Press that the issue has been "totally fixed" but would not confirm the exact number of illnesses reported to the company, saying it was not in the hundreds or thousands.

"Everybody in the company took this hard," Ulukaya told the AP. "It shook us up."

Some customers had taken this past week to the company's Facebook page to complain about yogurt that appeared fizzy, or carbonated. Others said they felt sick after eating the product. Many received responses directly from Chobani.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says some molds on foods can cause allergic and respiratory infections, while a few molds can produce so-called "mycotoxins," poisonous substances that make people feel sick.

When you see a moldy food, don't sniff it, says the USDA, because that might lead to breathing trouble. Put the item in question in a small paper bag or wrap it in plastic and dispose of it in a covered trash that children and animals can't reach.

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