United Natural Trading LLC, doing business under the name “Woodstock Farms Manufacturing,” recently announced the recall of a “number of lots of conventional walnuts and walnut-containing products.” The full list of recalled products may be found in the recall notice, which has been posted on the FDA website.
Nationwide Recall of Walnuts and Walnut-Containing Products: A Listeria Recall Unrelated to Frozen Foods
The walnuts and products containing walnuts as an ingredient subject to the recall by the Edison, New Jersey company were purchased by Woodstock from Gibson Farms, a third-party distributor. Woodstock Farms sold the products under the brand names Nature’s Promise, Woodfield Farms, Market Basket and Woodstock.
Positive Listeria Test Prompts United Natural Trading to Recall Select Products
Woodstock Farms made the decision to announce the recall due to concerns that the walnuts may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a potentially lethal organism that causes acute illness in the frail or elderly, immunocompromised individuals, and young children. Healthy individuals may also contract listeriosis, one name for the illness associated with Listeria bacteria, though illnesses in these individuals tend to be short-lived and much less severe than cases of listeriosis in high-risk individuals.
Listeria also disproportionately affects pregnant women – and according to studies, pregnant hispanic women in particular – and can cause stillbirths and miscarriages in addition to other risks posed to the sick individual.
The company was alerted to the potential contamination when a “single sample in a finished product” tested positive for the pathogen. Subsequent to the positive test result, Woodstock has been in close contact with regulatory officials, with whom they are closely coordinating to identify the source of the outbreak.
Company Takes Preemptive Action to Prevent Listeria Cases Linked to Woodstock Farms’ Products
Once the product test revealed the presence of Listeria in a Woodstock Farm walnut, the company took affirmative actions – in addition to announcing the voluntary recall of potentially affected products – to prevent the further distribution, sale and consumption of the implicated products.
First, Woodstock “contacted its customers to ensure that any remaining recalled products” were removed from shelves and from the distribution chain. Given the fact that the company’s customer base consisted in part of distributors – in other words, companies that would further sell the walnuts to a number of other companies, widening the reach of the product and making it harder to track – notification constituted an incredibly important part of the company’s efforts.
In addition to notifying its direct customers and despite the fact that no illnesses have been associated with Woodstock’s product to this point, the company strongly urged customers in possession of the product not to consume the walnuts. Further, the walnuts should be disposed of even if the individual had already eaten some of the product and not fallen ill.
For consumers and customers with questions regarding the recall, the company has designated Melissa McCullough at Woodstock Farms Manufacturing customer service as the point person designated to provide information and answers. The customer service line will be active from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday, at (732) 650-9905.
Interesting Twist in Company Recall Notice: “Retain Your Receipts”
Most recall notices follow a similar pattern, and largely include the same information. Given that this recall announcement comes from the Woodstock, the company initiating, announcing, and carrying out the recall, one piece of advice to consumers seemed out of place. None of the contributors to this blog have seen advice such as this – contained in the Woodstock recall notice – in the many, many other recall notices they have reviewed:
Consumers should retain their store receipts, packaging reflecting lot numbers or any other proof they may have.
While it is true that if an individual attempts to sue the company and produces a receipt or lot number not matching those recalled then the company will have an easy time dismissing the claim, the threat of having positive proof that the product was purchased and that the purchased walnuts were among those subject to the recall is a much more dangerous threat to the company in the legal context.
The need to prove that a recalled product was purchased may be increasingly important, says attorney Ron Simon. Proof of purchase is becoming more paramount in proving your case and recovering damages – and in this situation, the company responsible for distributing the contaminated product is advising you to retain that proof.