Ever eaten moldy yogurt? One Texas couple had the lovely pleasure of ingesting moldy Chobani Greek yogurt, which prompted an immediate national recall of the product nearly ten months ago that caused nearly 400 people to fall ill.
At the time, Chobani and it’s loyal customers were worried that the fungus was extremely harmful. However, microbiologists recently announced that the fungus responsible for the outbreak is not as life-threatening as people made it out to be.
Household mold is not uncommon: It is mostly found growing on top of that cream cheese shoved in the back of the refrigerator, or colonizing on the grout in your shower. Mold can also be found in any place with a lot of moisture in a home: Around leaks in roofs, windows, pipes, and especially where there has been flooding.
Experts at Duke University tested the yogurt that was claimed to have made hundreds ill in September 2013 and found that the yogurt contained Mucor circinelloides, the fungus detected at Chobani’s Twin Falls, Idaho plant. However, additional research on the sample was conducted and found that the mold was a subspecies of the bug that is most commonly associated with human infections.
“The potential risk would be higher than we might have thought,” said Soo Chan Lee, senior research associate at Duke Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology.
Health risks for mold vary greatly depending on people’s immune responses. Normally, mold causes symptoms ranging from itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, and serious allergic reactions, to asthmas attacks and permanent lung damage.
“Mold is everywhere is our environment, but when it reaches critical levels and concentrations, individuals that have hypersensitivity or compromised immune systems can be adversely affected when exposed to high concentrations of mold and certain types of mold spores. Potential health risks associated with mold exposure are cold like symptoms, to severe reactions in particularly sensitive people” said Mike Mulieri, Chief Operations Officer at Mold Gone.
Lee’s statement and their findings contradicts the position of experts cited by Chobani who claimed the mold is “not considered a disease-causing microorganism,” and might pose a risk only to people with compromised immune systems. However, most studies have linked mold as a causation to many health issues, such as sinus infections. Around 93 percent of all Chronic Sinus Infections have been attributed to mold.
Dr. Alejandro Mazzotta, Chobani’s vice presdent of global quality, food safety, and regulatory affairs, dismissed claims that the mold was responsible for these illnesses. “To out knowledge, there is no evidence, including the assertions presented in this publication, that the strain in the recalled products causes illness in consumers when ingested,” he stated.
The Food and Drug Administration announced that there were at least 403 reports of illnesses connected to the recall on Chobani’s products in the past year. Reports are not confirmed cases, but if they are confirmed, the company could run the risk of suffering more than a few lawsuits. Farmers Insurance noted a 1,100 percent increase in mold-related claims in the course of the past decade.
Mold can enter a home or in this case a factory facility through open doorways, windows, vents, and heating and air conditioning systems. Chobani has taken all necessary steps to remediate the mold at the plant, said FDA officials.