Recalls created a negative news buzz the past week, with one centered squarely on the packaging. More...

Recalls created a news buzz of the unfortunate kind the past week, with one centered squarely on the packaging.

Working in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Kellogg Co. announced last week that it was implementing a voluntary recall of some of its breakfast cereals due to an uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell coming from the liner, or inner bag, found in the boxes.

Kellogg’s announced on Friday that it is recalling about 28 million boxes of Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and Honey Smacks. Kellogg blamed the offensive odor and flavor on a substance in the waxy resin used to make the plastic box liners. One news outlet indicated that the problem centered specifically on the foil and paper laminated liner rather than the either the metallized or clear polymer liners it uses for other cereals.

The company’s website noted: “These packages are being recalled because we identified a substance in the package liner that can produce an uncharacteristic waxy-like off-taste and smell. The off-tastes and smells are caused by a slightly elevated level of a substance commonly present at very low levels in the waxy resins used to make packaging materials that are approved by the FDA. These resins are also commonly used to coat foods such as cheese, raw fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers.  We did not find any substances that are not commonly used in packaging materials.

“We completed a thorough health-risk assessment with external experts in medicine, toxicology, public health, chemistry, and food safety. The experts agree that some consumers are particularly sensitive to these uncharacteristic off-tastes and smells and may have temporary symptoms, like nausea and diarrhea, which should subside shortly. These symptoms are a result of the off-taste and odor in the food; they are not caused by any harmful material in the food.

“You should not eat the recalled product because it does not meet quality standards.  If you have concerns about your health, you should consult their health care provider.”

Said David Mackay, Kellogg’s president and chief executive officer: "We apologize to our consumers and our customers and are working diligently to ensure that the affected products are rapidly removed from the marketplace."

The company was not alone with major problems last week. At the same time, Walmart announced a recall of its Marketside Chicken BBQ pizza over the weekend after a routine U.S. Dept. of Agriculture inspection discovered small pieces of plastic lodged inside some of the product. Great Kitchens, Inc., a food production company in Illinois that sells frozen food to Walmart, is recalling approximately 109,800 pounds of BBQ chicken pizza products that may contain the foreign materials.

In addition to directing the chain’s stores to remove the product, Walmart also placed a computerized block at the register to prevent consumers from purchasing the product.

In a perfect world, there would be no recalls. But as unsettling as these recalls can be and apart from 100% prevention, they are reported widely through government and commercial media outlets. Just as quickly, the news spreads rapidly through a highly reactive blogosphere. Especially in our digitally driven era, the response system to potentially health and safety-threatening product and packaging problems seems to work better than ever.

--Rick Lingle, executive editor