Study: Fungus Found In Chobani Yogurt More Dangerous Than First Reported

Jul 16, 2014

Chobani's voluntary recall began Sept. 5, 2013. The company says the facility has been cleaned and the mold hasn't been detected since.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A fungus found in Chobani yogurt produced at its Twin Falls facility last year that led to a voluntary recall was more virulent than first thought.

In August and September 2013 more than 200 people were made sick by the Greek yogurt after a strain of fungus called Mucor circinelloides was detected in the product.

Chobani responded to the reports of illness and swollen, moldy yogurt cups by issuing a voluntary recall of eight product lines that had been distributed across the country. Duke University reports that at the time, Chobani said the mold was "naturally occurring and not considered a food-borne pathogen."

A study by Duke University finds that the fungus could actually be quite dangerous to public health.

"[Senior author of the study Dr. Joseph] Heitman said the finding also suggests specific attention should be paid to fungal pathogens in food products and the factories that manufacture them.

"Typically when people think about food-borne pathogens, they think about viruses or bacteria, they don't think of fungi," said Soo Chan Lee, a senior research associate at Duke who led this study. "Our research suggests it may be time to think about fungal pathogens and develop good regulations to test them in manufacturing facilities." - Duke University

Study authors report the fungus is associated with infections in people with compromised immune systems. The particular strain of fungus can be found in mouse feces up to 10 days after consuming it.

NBC News reports the findings contradict what Chobani said about the voluntary recall back in 2013.

"But Dr. Alejandro Mazzotta, Chobani's vice president of global quality, food safety and regulatory affairs, disputed the study findings.

"To our knowledge, there is no evidence, including the assertions presented in this publication, that the strain in the recalled products causes illness in consumers when ingested," he said in a statement. Chobani officials say they've made significant investments in technology and personnel to improve food safety procedures." - NBC News

Since Chobani's 2013 recall, grocer Whole Foods has said it will stop selling the Greek yogurt because it plans to phase out products that contain genetically modified ingredients.

Chobani also recently announced layoffs of some temporary and regular employees at its Twin Falls facility.

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