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Nestle to use heat-treated flour after E.coli found in dough

By Rory Harrington, 14-Jan-2010

Related topics: Quality, Safety, Hygiene, Safety & Regulation, Contamination

Nestle USA has said it is to begin using heat-treated flour in the manufacture of its Toll House refrigerated cookie dough two days after finding E.coli in samples of the product.

The company announcement yesterday on the “safety enhancement” came 48 hours after it informed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that E.coli 0157 H7 had been detected in two dough samples at its Virginia plant. The firm said that as none of the tainted dough had left the Danville site, entered the supply chain or been shipped to customers, it would not be necessary to issue a recall. Product currently on store shelves displaying the ‘New Batch’ sticker is not affected, it added.

This is the second time in seven months that E.coli has been linked to Nestle’s Toll House dough produced at the Virginia facility. In June 2009, Nestle USA recalled the dough after the FDA and Centers for Disease Control launched an investigation into reports that scores of E.coli illnesses across 29 states were connected to its consumption.

The company said it had introduced new testing protocols in the wake last summer’s E.coli probe when cookie dough production re-started in August. The new practices included testing ingredients before they entered its plant, environmental sampling throughout the facility and testing of finished product prior to distribution.

The latest announcement regarding heat treated flour is in addition to these protocols, Nestle USA confirmed, even though it said it was satisfied that its quality assurance methods were working. Heat-treating flour is carried out as a way killing germs or bacteria.

The process of switching to the heat-treated ingredient began yesterday and will result in a two-week shutdown in production. Dough made with the new flour is scheduled to go on sale by the beginning of March. The company admitted that consumers could notice a shortage of its Toll House Dough on supermarket shelves in the meantime.

“Consistent with our quality standards for Nestle Toll House refrigerated cookie dough, this change will only further enhance the safety of our products,” said Paul Bakus, General Manager, Nestle USA Baking Group.

Nestle said it had kept the FDA informed of its plans and would continue to cooperate with the agency. The company warned consumers against eating raw or uncooked dough.