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July 28, 2014
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Grass Valley's Earth Circle Organics: Salmonella recall a precaution

Earth Circle Organics, a Grass Valley company offering raw, organic and superfood products, was notified by its supplier last week of possible salmonella contamination in the company’s organic carob powder product.

“This is a recall out of an abundance of caution,” Earth Circle Organics President and COO Herb Heller said.

“No illnesses have been reported, and no other complaints on this product have been received. We’re doing our part to make sure that we reduce the risk in the market as much as we’re able.”

Located on the 300 block of Crown Point Circle in Grass Valley, the company was told by its supplier, Ciranda, on July 21 of the potential of salmonella in the carob powder.

Within 24 hours, Heller said, the company issued a recall through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who then posted a press release on its website notifying the public of the recall.

“It is not a consumer re call, as our supplier does not sell directly to the recall channel,” Heller said. “They notified us through their process that they had a customer whose internal testing revealed the presence of salmonella at levels higher than their specifications.”

Symptoms of salmonella include fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, endocarditis and arthritis.

Salmonella can also cause fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems.

“Any product that you buy will have the presence of bacteria,” Heller said.

“So in this case the recall was issued by the supplier out of an abundance of caution, not based on any complaint of health effects or illness related to the product. It was a purely precautionary step taken by the supplier.”

Focusing on the raw and organic food market, Earth Circle Organics sells multiple food products including sweeteners, superfoods, seasoning and salts, oils, nuts, berries and hemp products.

The company’s organic carob powder is created from the pods of the carob, or St. John’s tree.

The pods are dried, and the fruit inside is roasted and caramelized, then finely ground into a powder. Carob is a natural sweetener, and is often used as a substitute for chocolate in cereal, smoothies and other drinks and beverages.

Heller says this is the first food recall that Earth Circle Organics has had, and that they are still in the process of isolating and disposing of the contaminated product.

“We’re also looking at our downstream manufacturing customers with any impacts as well. It’s a precautionary step, but one we are concerned with because of public health issues. What we sell is in most cases what we call a raw product that has not been given any kill step in its processing, and as an organic raw product, sometimes these things can be susceptible.”

Heller added, “But it’s very, very rare that we have some kind of microbial issue because we deal in dry powder, so our risk factor of certain pathogens is very, very low, because most of the pathogens we deal with need to be in a damp environment to survive.”

Heller said that it is too early to measure the financial impact the recall will have on his company, but said the company is taking normal measures to prevent this from happening in the future.

“We routinely screen, with laboratory testing, all of our products sometimes at intervals where we have a good history with our suppliers,” Heller said.

“With new products and new suppliers, we will thoroughly test to make sure that we’re meeting all the regulations that we’re under. There’s no way for us to ensure one way or the other that it will happen with any particular supplier. Our job is to make sure that at every step of the chain we are not perpetuating a problem, but rather identifying and trapping a problem before it gets into the market.”

Local consumers who have purchased organic carob powder from Earth Circle Organics since February of this year, are advised not to consume the product, and return it to the retailer.

Consumers with questions may contact Earth Circle Organics at info@earthcircleorganics.com.

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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The Union Updated Jul 29, 2014 02:42PM Published Jul 29, 2014 04:27PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.