E. coli tests negative for BJ’s mushrooms

02/27/2007 12:00:00 AM
Tom Karst

(Feb. 27) Two independent laboratory tests have shown private-label mushrooms recalled by BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. in mid-February did not have E. coli.

The Natick, Mass.-based retailer on Feb. 23 said lab tests revealed that all Wellsley Farms brand fresh mushrooms tested negative for E. coli.

On Feb. 20, BJ’s voluntarily recalled its prepackaged Wellsley Farm mushrooms purchased between Feb. 11 and Feb. 19 due to a potential health risk.

The mushroom packs were removed from the shelves after preliminary test results showed the possible presence of trace amounts of E. coli from one lot code of the Wellsley Farms brand sliced mushrooms.

The company said in a statement that its precautionary recall was made out of an “abundance of caution.”

“The company takes food safety issues seriously and strives to makes decisions that ensure the health and safety of its members,” the company’s statement said.

John Pia, owner of Kaolin Farms — the Kennett Square, Pa., supplier to BJ’s of the Wellsley Farm private label mushrooms — said incorrect data played a part in the voluntary recall.

“It was a missed cue,” he said. “They pulled the product off the shelf with no conclusive negative information, but the data delivered to both BJ’s and ourselves was incorrect data,” he said. “The wheels of intervention had already kicked into play at that point.”

Pia said the laboratory industry needs to use extreme caution in how it handles sensitive data.

However, Pia said that BJ’s should be commended for looking out for the welfare of their customers. Pia said Kaolin Farms is continuing as a supplier of mushrooms to BJ’s Wholesale Club, but he had no comment whether there would be any recourse for the mushrooms lost in the recall.

Pia said more buyers should put in more requirements like BJ’s and more mushroom suppliers need to put in place processes and protocols to mitigate food safety risks.

Laura Phelps, president of the American Mushroom Institute, Washington, D.C., said mushrooms are grown indoors on pasteurized soil, so the chance of E. coli contamination is “incredibly remote.” However, she said growers are continually reviewing Good Agricultural Practices to keep current with science.



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