Study exposes dangers of Chobani yogurt mold outbreak

Study exposes dangers of Chobani yogurt mold outbreak

WASHINGTON - A mould outbreak last year in some US containers of Chobani yogurt may have been more dangerous than the company initially acknowledged, according to a scientific study out Tuesday.

The yogurt company issued a voluntary recall of certain products with "best by" dates between September and October 2013 from its Idaho plant.

More than 300 consumers reported bloating, diarrhoea and vomiting.

The company said at the time "this type of mould is unlikely to have ill health effects," but agreed to the voluntary recall after customer complaints.

Researchers at Duke University reported in the journal mBio that the mould was actually a type that has been shown to be potentially fatal in people, and when injected into mice it killed some of them and sickened others.

"When we heard about the Chobani recall after reports of people becoming sick from yogurt contaminated with Mucor circinelloides, we thought the M. circinelloides strain could cause more serious problems than one might think," said study author Soo Chan Lee.

Lee obtained a partially eaten container of Chobani from a Texas couple that had been sickened after eating it.

"One of them experienced repeated vomiting and diarrhoea for two entire days with two days of missed work; the other was severely nauseated with diarrhoea for a few days without vomiting," said the study.

The product expired September 30, 2013, which was in the date range of the recall, and carried the ID number designated for the recall, 16-012.

Lab analysis showed that the strain was Mucor circinelloides f. circinelloides (Mcc).

"Unlike other strains of the fungus, that particular subspecies is commonly associated with human infections," said the study.

"Whole-genome sequence analysis of the yogurt isolate confirmed it as being closely related to Mcc and also revealed the possibility that this fungus could produce harmful metabolites that were previously unknown in this species." 

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