A renewed public warning today from the FDA says a salmonella threat from certain imported tahini products is ongoing. Some of the recalled products may have label information in Hebrew only, making them difficult for many U.S. consumers to identify.

Although only five confirmed Salmonella Concord infections have been reported to federal officials, the recalled tahini products have long shelf lives with expiration dates well into 2021.

The FDA found Salmonella Concord in a sample of tahini collected at the point of import. That sample was of Baron’s brand tahini manufactured by Achdut Ltd. The FDA reported whole genome sequencing was used to determine that the Salmonella Concord in the Baron’s tahini was the outbreak strain. 

Manufacturer Achdut Ltd. in Ari’el, Israel distributed the products under several brand names, complicating consumers’ ability to determine whether they have the recalled food in their homes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is working on the outbreak investigation with the Food and Drug Administration.

“Return any recalled tahini products to the store for a refund or throw them away. Throw out any food made with recalled tahini, such as hummus. Even if some tahini was eaten and no one got sick, do not eat it,” the CDC warned in its most recent outbreak, posted on Nov. 28, 2018.

“ Some recalled products may not have dates or may have labels written in Hebrew. If you do not know whether the tahini product has been recalled, do not eat it and throw it away.”

The warning posted today by the FDA reinforced that advice from the CDC. 

“The FDA is advising consumers not to eat recalled Achva, Achdut, Soom, S&F, and Pepperwood brand tahini and Soom brand Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread (with the) lot code 071318CH (and) with expiration dates ranging from April 7, 2020, to May 21, 2020, and Baron’s brand tahini with the expiration date of May 5, 2021.” according to the agency’s update.

“Some brands of tahini manufactured by Achdut Ltd. may lack specific dates … Consumers who have purchased a tahini product and are uncertain of where the product was manufactured or cannot identify the brand by lot codes or expiration dates should discard the product or return the food to the store for a refund.”

More product information, and photos of the recalled product labels can be found in Achdut’s recall announcement. The FDA has posted a list of the recalled tahini products. The public can find Soom Foods’ recall announcement by clicking on this link.

To identify some of the recalled tahini products, consumers should look for the following label information: 

  • 12 oz. Chocolate Sweet Tahini Halva Spread with the lot code 071318CH. Packed from tahini lot 18-123; and tahini in the following sizes and types;
  • 40 lb. Organic Tahini;
  • 40 lb. Premium Tahini;
  • 16 oz. Premium Tahini;
  • 16 oz. Organic Tahini; and
  • 11 oz. Premium Tahini.

The recalled tahini products have lot codes ranging from 18-097 through 18-141. Some of the above listed products were included in the original voluntary recall by Achdut Ltd. on Nov. 27, 2018. The FDA posted the Feb. 8  outbreak update “to ensure the widest possible dissemination to the public.”

Recommendations for restaurants and consumers
Both the FDA and CDC urge consumers, restaurant operators and other foodservice entities to check for the recalled tahini products and throw them away. The FDA also recommends that any foodservice or restaurant operators that may have used the recalled tahini — either repacked or used as an ingredient in a food without a kill step — should consider recalling their products. Recalls should be reported to local FDA offices. Click here for a list of FDA recall coordinators. 

The CDC posted cleaning instructions for the public and foodservice operations, including restaurants:

  • Wash and sanitize drawers or shelves in refrigerators where recalled tahini products were stored. 
  • Follow these five steps to clean your refrigerator.
  • Wash containers that held foods made with recalled tahini with hot, soapy water or clean in the dishwasher.

Outbreak investigation details
The CDC’s Nov. 28, 2018 outbreak alert reported:

  • Five people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Concord have been reported from three states;
  • Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 16, 2018, to Oct. 18, 2018;
  • No hospitalizations or deaths have been reported; 
  • Ill people range in age from 17 to 52 years, with a median age of 30; and Three ill people ate tahini or hummus made with tahini in Hawaii and New York. The other two ill people traveled to other countries where they ate tahini or hummus made with tahini.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that tahini products from Achdut Ltd. are the likely source of this outbreak, according to the CDC. Illnesses might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to four weeks after the infection is confirmed through initial and followup laboratory testing.

During interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. All five ill people reported eating tahini or hummus made with tahini. 

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Managing Editor Coral Beach is a print journalist with more than 30 years experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, trade publications and freelance clients including the Kansas City Star, the Independence Examiner and Land Line Magazine. Before joining Food Safety News, Beach was a reporter for The Packer newspaper, an online and broadsheet trade publication covering the fresh produce industry in North America. During her time at The Packer, Beach specialized in food safety topics related to legislation, regulation, recalls and foodborne illness outbreaks. A Jayhawk by birth and education, Beach earned her bachelor’s of science in journalism from the University of Kansas. She enjoys playing trumpet in a community concert band and hanging our with her sister Sandy Beach at the beach house.