Nestlé Recalls 238,000 Hot Pockets That May Have Been Tainted By Diseased Beef

CREDIT: Flickr/M J M

A frozen food aisle stocked with Nestle's Hot Pocket products

Food giant Nestlé has issued a voluntary recall of several of its Hot Pocket brand products out of fears that they’ve been tainted by diseased beef that was never inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Last week, California-based Rancho Food Corp. recalled nearly nine million pounds of its uninspected beef that could have posed a potential threat to consumers’ health.

The recall will affect about 238,000 cases of Hot Pockets — specifically, three different-sized boxes of Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets and two-pack boxes of Croissant Crust Philly Steak and Cheese.

“While Nestlé did not purchase meat directly from Rancho, our procurement teams worked with our supply chain to understand whether any company in this chain may have purchased meat from Rancho Feeding at any time during 2013, the period of time covered by the Rancho Feeding recall,” said the company in a statement. “From this review, we have confirmed that a small quantity of meat from Rancho was used at Nestlé’s Chatsworth, California production operation, a facility devoted entirely to HOT POCKETS® brand sandwiches.”

According to the USDA, Rancho Food Corp. shipped its potentially tainted beef to just under 1,000 California retailers and a handful of other companies in Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, Florida, Washington, and Oregon. Although there have been no reported illnesses linked to Rancho beef to date, Nestlé warned customers who already bought the affected Hot Pockets brands to return them to the retailers for a refund.

These type of recalls are fairly common in the U.S., where the growth of large, national food distributors and an underfunded, understaffed food inspection regimen leaves Americans susceptible to illnesses. More than 48 million Americans are sickened and 3,000 people are killed every year by diseased food. Raw foods derived from animals — including raw meat and poultry, raw eggs, unpasteurized milk, and raw shellfish — are the most common sources of foodborne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Although President Obama signed one of the largest overhauls of American food regulation into law in 2010, federal officials are worried that there will continue to be a dearth of food inspectors and inspections without more funding. “We will continue our efforts to make the best use of the resources we have, but I can say with absolute certainty that we cannot do all that is asked of us without additional resources,” said the Food and Drug Administration’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, Michael Taylor, in recent testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.