Friday, September 13, 2013

When Local Food Goes Bad

Sad when a good local food goes bad - literally.  And it's sad, because this started out as one of our local foods here in upstate New York.  We are in dairy country and - well, let the Chobani Yogurt website explain it:

"....our Founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, stumbled upon a classified ad for a yogurt plant recently closed down by Kraft. After initially throwing the ad away, Hamdi listened to his gut, fished it out of the trash and went to see it that day. He decided to buy the plant on the spot, and went to work on perfecting the recipe for Chobani ... The first cup... hit shelves 18 months later and has since grown to become America’s #1 yogurt."

Chobani makes Greek style yogurt, with active cultures, with rBST free milk, and without preservatives.  I love Chobani yogurt, especially the blood orange flavor, and I always felt I was supporting my community by purchasing it.  But now, something has gone wrong.

And, ironically, it wasn't in the original New York State plant, but in a new plant located in Idaho.

While I was on vacation the last week of August and the first week of September, I started seeing some Facebook posts about friends finding bulging containers of Chobani in their fridges, and something about a recall.

When I returned to this area, I found out that someone I know claims to have become sick from eating Chobani. She ate only a couple of spoonfuls, because it tasted so awful.  Right now, I think the official count is 118 reports of people becoming sick, but I'm wondering if this number is underreported.

Anyway, as soon as I could, I went into my fridge, and this is what I found.
It's hard to see, but this is bulging. I also had a container of Orange Vanilla, which was recalled, but isn't bulging.  And it never will, because I threw both containers out and they are now in the Broome County Landfill. Which is where our tale continues.

If I hadn't been on vacation I probably would have tried to eat these by now and gotten a spoonful of horrible tasting yogurt in my mouth.  Thank heavens for vacations.

The aftermath of the recall is part 2 to this tale. People I know who emailed Chobani using the instructions on the FDA website have gotten no response. 

Hamdi, the founder, has personally apologized on the website for this incident, and that touched me.  I believe the apology is genuine. This is a perishable product, and I am grateful no one was (apparently) seriously injured.

The one person I know who called rather than used the website form was told to take the container to her supermarket for a refund, which is not what the Chobani website told us to do.  And, I reported my containers nearly a week ago, and have received no response, either.  I know Chobani has its corporate hands full, and we're talking about a retail value of about $2.00, so I will be patient.  And yes, if I am given coupons, I will use them.

Strangely, one person I know hadn't even heard of the recall until the supermarket she purchased it at contacted HER.  She had used one of the store loyalty cards when she purchased it, and it was on their records.  Kudos, store in question, for this action.  

It's never good when local food goes bad.  I'm hopeful that Chobani will weather this succesfully.

However, I am going to be checking their codes from now on, and purchasing only the lots made in New York State.  A bit unnecessary, perhaps, but I was disappointed to find that some of my "local food" was being made nearly 2,500 miles from us.

Have you ever been involved (as a consumer or corporately) in a food recall?

14 comments:

  1. I've never been involved in a food recall but try to understand that things do happen and if there isn't some outright negligent behavior hopefully their clients will remain loyal.

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    1. I hope so, too. One person I know, who contacted them before the recall because she had a bulging container, just got a response. They are, apparently, going to send coupons for free containers. I hope so much people will continue to buy from them.

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  2. I must admit that I doubt the fact that the plant was in Idaho had anything to do with it. Since most corporations (even small, growing ones to become huge) use the same quality rules everywhere. But, it could be related to the failure of training or the hiring of an irresponsible manager- which can happen anywhere, unless the company is extremely diligent.

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    1. There seems to be such a crazy quilt of food safety enforcement - state, federal, local - I don't know if Idaho is better or worse than New York, and I don't know if it would have been better for Chobani to locate the plant "closer to home" - I do hope that, whatever the cause, that they can recover OK from this.

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  3. I've gotten calls from both Wegman's and Price Chopper telling me that food I've bought at their stores has been recalled. I know some people don't like the store loyalty/discount cards because they think the government is tracking their purchases, but in these cases, I was happy the store had been tracking my items!

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    1. We do use the food loyalty cards and (as it happens) we shop both at Wegmans and Price Chopper. Strangely, neither store has contacted us and I'm almost sure we would have purchased at either one. I do know a lot of people don't want to be tracked - we, personally, aren't bothered by the "tracking" of the loyalty cards, or, for that matter, E-Z Pass.

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  4. Successfully producing and marketing a quality food product is tough work. Sounds like some growing pains for these guys. The good thing about truly local foods is that you know where they come from. Or, you can make your own yogurt. It is surprisingly easy to do.

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  5. Hello Alana,

    Thanks for this interesting article - it was very well-written and engaging! I've never been involved in a food recall, but it is scary to think about. We put a lot of faith and trust in the people who make our food, don't we?

    What a drag for Chobani, on so many levels. And for you, its customers!

    Stay true to you,
    Laurie

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  6. Hello Alana,

    Thanks for this interesting article - it was very well-written and engaging! I've never been involved in a food recall, but it is scary to think about. We put a lot of faith and trust in the people who make our food, don't we?

    What a drag for Chobani, on so many levels. And for you, its customers!

    Stay true to you,
    Laurie

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  7. No, but Chobani is my favorite yogurt! Hop they straighten this out....

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  8. This is aweful. It could happen at any time to any company. From what you say, the chairman has acted with due consideration. I once returned toothpaste to Colgate because the inside of my lips shredded. They refunded my money immediately and suggested another product.

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  9. That's not good! I don't think I've ever experienced anything like this at any of my local supermarkets!

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  10. Great post! My step-daughter purchased some of this yogurt and was called the next day by our supermarket to let her know about the recall. Thank goodness for loyalty cards!

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  11. Hello! We're sorry you received any products of ours that were inedible. Please find our blog post here: www.chobani.com/community/blog with information updated in real time, and contact our Customer Loyalty Team directly here for questions and a refund: www.chobani.com/care. We sincerely look forward to addressing your concerns with the utmost care. Thank you.

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