Nestlé has refuted suggestions made in the Wall Street Journal on Friday (26 June) that it has not cooperated fully with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the E. coli contamination linked to its Toll House cookie dough brand.
The company said the situation as described in the Wall Street Journal “bears no relation” to the circumstances surrounding its voluntary withdrawal of Toll House products.
Nestlé said it always cooperates with the regulatory authorities wherever it operates and is “fully cooperating” with the FDA at its Danville, Virginia plant with regard to this matter.
The company also reiterated that to date, no E.coli 0157:H7 had been found at its plant or in any Nestlé product.
“The E. coli strain implicated in the CDC investigation has not been detected in our product but we’re very concerned about health and safety of our consumers. So we’ve temporarily stopped production and are working with FDA,” a spokesperson for the company told just-food.
The Wall Street Journal said it had obtained documents showing that the company had refused to give the FDA access to certain records, such as those involving pest-control and consumer complaints, during earlier inspections in recent years.
The WSJ report conceded that companies are not required by law to open up their books in this way, but reported that an FDA official had told the newspaper that many do. The FDA can demand access to such records if it can show “a reasonable belief” that the foods are a serious health threat.
Nestlé said it rejects the implication that it has not cooperated with the FDA. “Nestlé simply provided the FDA with all information required under the law,” the company said, adding that this was standard practice in the food industry. “Furthermore, during the routine inspection of the Danville plant in September 2006, we passed the inspection,” the company added. “No food safety issues were identified.”
“It is our standard policy to provide the FDA and other government agencies access during routine inspections to all reports that are required by law,” the statement continued. “Nestlé continues to fully cooperate with the FDA on this ongoing investigation, and is openly sharing all requested information.”
So far, the outbreak has affected 69 people, mostly adolescent girls, with some 34 requiring hospitalisation. Preliminary results of an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have indicated “a strong association” with eating raw prepackaged cookie dough. CDC said most patients had reported eating refrigerated prepackaged Toll House cookie dough products raw.