Odwalla is still working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to ascertain the cause of allergic reactions among consumers of its dairy-based chocolate beverage, while one food safety expert said he would explore potential protein 'cross reactivity' as one lead.
Last Thursday the beverage firm (which is owned by the Coca-Cola Company) issued a ‘nationwide allergy alert’ in the US and recalled certain batches of Chocolate Protein Monster, its dairy-based chocolate drink, warning that the drink could cause ‘serious or life-threatening’ reactions in nut allergic consumers ; a similar recall was also issued in Canada.
Coca-Cola Company spokeswoman Susan Stribling told DairyReporter.com that the drinks in question – Chocolate Protein Monster in 12oz (355ml) and 32oz bottles with ‘enjoy before’ dates prior to and including May 23 2012 – were produced at Odwalla’s main production facility at Dinuba in California, US.
Asked yesterday whether any other consumers had indicated allergic reactions, she said: "We have heard from a few additional people, but until we share that information with the FDA, we don't have anything specific we can share."
Stribling declined to say how many bottles were affected by the recalls, and asked how the incident had happened given that the facility didn’t use nuts, Stribling said: “We don’t know yet, we’re investigating the situation along with the FDA and CFIA. That investigation is ongoing, and as soon as we determine the cause of the issue we will share that information.”
She added:“The product does not include peanuts or tree nuts, and we have found no evidence that of these in the products.”
So what was Odwalla doing to reassure consumers? “There are no nuts in the product, but given that there have been four allergic reactions, we’re using an overabundance of caution in recalling all the beverages until we are sure of what the cause might be,” Stribling said.
“Consumers can be assured that we’re doing everything we can to determine what the issue is.”
Last week Odwalla revealed that four consumers had been in contact reporting allergic reactions after drinking the product. Although they were not known sufferers from soy or milk allergies, they did report being allergic to peanuts and/or tree nuts.
“Odwalla's Chocolate Protein Monster beverage may cause a serious or life-threatening reaction in persons with an allergy or severe sensitivity to peanuts or peanuts and tree nuts,” the firm warned in a statement.
Although the beverage contained dairy and soy ingredients, the presence of these was clearly disclosed on the product label by the statement that the product ‘contains soy and milk protein’, the firm added.
Food safety and quality consultant Dr. Slim Dinsdale told DairyReporter.com: "There's not a lot of information to go on here, but the interesting thing is that the people affected were seen to be allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. It seems unlikely that the process was at fault if they've got a completely nut-free environment where they're producing it."
He added: "I suppose there is the potential that people might bring nut products in, and I don't know whether there's any hint of malicious contamination or not. But the other possibility is that there maybe, and this is a big maybe, potential for cross reactivity.
"In other words if you're allergic to one class of proteins then you may be develop a reaction to another class of proteins where there may be some similarities in the structure. There's plenty of 'ifs and buts' in what I'm saying, but the fact that they are allergic to nut components, if I was looking into it that would be one of things that I'd want to follow up."