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Published: Tuesday, 7/19/2005

Area supplier's errors lead to cookie recalls

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Oreo cookies, made by Kraft Foods Inc., are on a shelf in a grocery store in Wilmette, Illinois on Tuesday, April 20, 2004. Altria Group, Inc., the parent company of Kraft announced its profits from Kraft fell 32 percent because of $308 million in expenses from previously announced factory closings and job cuts. Altria's net income rose to $2.19 billion, or $1.07 a share. Sales climbed 13 percent to $21.8 billion to $19.4 billion.  Photographer: Tannen Maury/Bloomberg News Oreo cookies, made by Kraft Foods Inc., are on a shelf in a grocery store in Wilmette, Illinois on Tuesday, April 20, 2004. Altria Group, Inc., the parent company of Kraft announced its profits from Kraft fell 32 percent because of $308 million in expenses from previously announced factory closings and job cuts. Altria's net income rose to $2.19 billion, or $1.07 a share. Sales climbed 13 percent to $21.8 billion to $19.4 billion. Photographer: Tannen Maury/Bloomberg News
TANNEN MAURY / BLOOMBERG NEWS Enlarge

McCOMB, Ohio - Nabisco Foods has issued two nationwide recalls of Oreo products because of potentially harmful packaging errors that originated at plants owned by a local supplier.

The recalls were necessary because ingredient lists failed to include milk and peanut butter, which in certain cases can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction in some people, Nabisco officials said.

Kevin Reckham, quality director for the supplier, Consolidated Biscuit Co., declined to comment.

"Due to contractual agreements with our customers we are not allowed to make comments about products that we may, or may not, produce for them," he said in a written statement.

But Renee Zahery, a Nabisco spokesman in East Hanover, N.J., confirmed that the problem products were produced at Consolidated plants in McComb and in London, Ky.

"As a further precaution, we have temporarily reduced production of certain Nabisco products at the McComb and London, Ky., facilities so that we can thoroughly evaluate their production processes," she added.

"We want to ensure that proper measures are in place to prevent a reoccurrence. "

On Friday, the cookie-maker recalled 838,000 7.5-ounce boxes of milk-chocolate-covered Oreo sandwich cookies that had peanut butter filling instead of the vanilla filling shown on the box.

The cookies represented about a week's worth of production at the Kentucky facility. The recall does not affect other Oreo cookies.

Four days earlier, Nabisco recalled an unspecified number of boxes labeled reduced-calorie Oreo baked chocolate wafer snacks that actually contained reduced-calorie Chips Ahoy! thin crisps with milk.

Despite that mistake, labeling is correct on inner sleeves in which the crisps are wrapped, officials said.

Nabisco's spokesman said the recall involved about a day's

worth of production at the McComb plant, although she was unsure of the exact number.

McComb is 45 miles south of Toledo in Hancock County.

Carol Heppe, who oversees inspections of commercial bakeries in Kentucky and Ohio for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said she was familiar with the Nabisco recall.

"If there is an issue, we really want to check it out," said Ms. Heppe, FDA district director in Cincinnati. Agency policy prevented her from saying if inspectors were sent to the Consolidated plants, she added, however.

The McComb plant was the scene of a protest last week by a union that has unsuccessfully tried to organize 830 hourly employees there for three years.

he Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International union has accused management, including owner James Appold, of Rossford, of anti-union activities.

Union representative John Price said supporters had nothing to do with the problems.

"Our own children eat that product," he said. "We want to see that company make money. Once workers win their organizing campaign and become union, there has to be money for us to negotiate."

Mr. Price said the union represents about 6,000 workers at plants owned by Nabisco, which is a unit of Kraft Foods.

Nabisco has received no reports of illnesses or allergic reactions as a result of the mix-ups, its spokesman said.

Problems with cookie and cracker labeling were discovered as a result of consumer complaints in Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina, officials said.

The mix-up presents no health hazard to people without the allergies, they added.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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