KOO recall: No, you really can’t eat defective products

Many South Africans are still holding on to some of the defective KOO and Hugo’s canned products that were recalled by Tiger Brands. All 20 million cans aren’t defective, right? Yes, says a top food expert, but “none of the recalled batches should be consumed”

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In case you were still holding on to some of the 20 million KOO and Hugo’s canned vegetable products that were recalled, a leading food expert has a clear warning. “None of the recalled batches should be consumed,” says Professor Lucia Anelich, the owner of Anelich Consulting, in an interview with Food For Mzansi.

Even though a very small number of cans were found to be defective, Tiger Brands, one of South Africa’s leading food manufacturers, simply could not afford the risk, believes Anelich.

“The cans may have a defective side seam weld that could cause the can to leak. The company identified the issue as part of its internal quality assurance processes,” Tiger Brands confirms in a statement.

Pretoria-based food-safety expert Dr Lucia Anelich. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Pretoria-based food-safety expert Dr Lucia Anelich. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

The affected cans include KOO’s famous baked beans and mixed vegetables, and their Hugo’s counterparts. According to Tiger Brands, the defective cans were manufactured between 1 May 2019 and 5 May 2021. 

“Canned vegetable products forming part of the recall can be identified by looking at the manufacturing date code stamped on the bottom or top of the can,” the food producer says.

The tins that are to be returned to stores will have the following code listed on it: “Man: 05/05/2021 08:58 4 K2 2H 9. Best before: 05/05/2024.”

Meanwhile, Anelich says the processing of food for canning is specifically focused on eliminating the bacteria Clostridium botulinum. This is associated with low-acid canned foods. 

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As stipulated by Anelich Consulting, the organism creates a toxin called botulin. When this is ingested, it results in botulism, a rare but serious illness that attacks the body’s nerves. 

Lucinda Dordley: Many individuals from low-income households rely on canned goods for daily meals, as they can be stored for long periods and are relatively cheap. Are the goods in Tiger Brand’s recall completely off limits to eat?

Professor Lucia Anelich: Yes, none of the recalled batches should be consumed. Even though a very small number of cans were found to be defective, a company cannot take such a risk, hence the recall. 

What proportion of our households rely on canned goods as a household staple? 

Many households in South Africa rely on canned goods as a staple as they have a long shelf-life and, most importantly, this long shelf-life is at room temperature, which means that the product  does not need to be refrigerated until opened. If there are any  leftovers after opening the can, then those must be refrigerated. 

What are the common treatments for botulism, and does the average South African have access to this?

various treatments are administered depending on the severity of symptoms that include inducing vomiting, administering a botulinum antitoxin and more. I would hope that all hospitals have access to treatment as botulism is a notifiable illness in South Africa.

What is crucial is that a person presenting with symptoms is correctly diagnosed. Because the illness is so rare, it may be misdiagnosed and the patient may not receive the correct treatment. It is important that the patient is asked about recent food that was eaten to assist clinicians to narrow down the type of illness. 

Do you have any words of advice for manufacturers of canned goods in protecting their consumers? 

The process of canning is well-known and has been with us for decades. The South African food canning industry is well-developed and I am confident that canning of goods are conducted under the correct conditions.  

However, in any business, including food businesses, failures occur from time to time. It’s what the business does about the failure that is important – the primary responsibility of a food business is to ensure that consumer safety is not compromised. 

To see the full list of affect cans, click here.

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