Tribune photo / Bonnie Trafelet
November 7, 2008
In March 2006, a consumer complaint was lodged with the FDA stating that a 14-year-old girl with a known milk allergy had to be taken to the emergency room after eating Duncan Hines Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Muffin Mix. The complaint alleged the ingredient label did not include milk.
Seven months later, Duncan Hines' distributor at the time, Pinnacle Foods, recalled 14,880 cases of the muffin mix nationwide for undeclared milk.
When asked by the Tribune why the recall took so long, Pinnacle Foods said it immediately had the product tested but found no milk. A few month later, the company received a second complaint of an allergic reaction to the mix. Pinnacle said it again investigated, this time finding a likely culprit overlooked in the first inquiry: some chocolate chips.
After the recall, Pinnacle took several steps to prevent the problem from recurring, said David Baldwin, the firm's vice president of quality assurance. Among them: "Pinnacle hired a food safety specialist who was permanently stationed at the muffin manufacturer to provide additional full-time oversight."
The newspaper reviewed 260 complaints filed with the FDA in which consumers with known allergies reported illnesses from products they claimed were mislabeled. Just 7 percent resulted in recalls, and those often occurred weeks after the complaints.