One may never know whether the applesauce or other foods they're eating has undergone food reconditioning. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Last month, Snokist Growers in Washington state got national attention for shipping moldy applesauce to school children. The applesauce had been packaged under “food reconditioning,” meaning getting tainted food ready for sale.

Mold-ridden and bug infested foods get new lease on life

According to MSNBC, tainted foods that were subject to recall can, under Food and Drug Administration law, be altered or prepared for re-sale, which the FDA calls “food reconditioning.” For instance, the moldy applesauce sold to school children in North Carolina earlier this month had been reconditioned, albeit insufficiently. Had the reconditioning sufficiently killed the mold growing in the applesauce, no one would have been the wiser.

Common practice

Plenty of firms sell reconditioned foods with FDA approval. Last year, when enormous amounts of hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP, made by Basic Food Flavors Inc., were found containing salmonella, the tainted lots were heat-treated, repackaged and sold, according to MSNBC.

Articles on CBS’ FindArticles website mention companies that got FDA approval to sell reconditioned food. In 1995, House of Spices of Elk Grove, Ill., got FDA approval to sell spices that had been seized after an inspection found “Indian meal moths … cowpea weevils and cigarette beetles” in its warehouse and in spice packaging. In 1996, Happy Valley Food of Baltimore, Md., received FDA approval to sell various food items, such as bags of flour and starch that had previously been seized. The initial inspection found bags of food had been gnawed open by rats, discovered rat feces in those products and found rodents as well as a dog and two cats had been living in the warehouse.

In 1999, according to CNN, Thorn Apple Valley was denied the right to re-condition 10 million pounds of meat products contaminated with listeria. The company planned to irradiate the contaminated meat and sell it overseas, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture nixed that plan. The company announced it would sell it as dog food instead.

FDA approved

Just about any food can be reconditioned, according to the Daily Mail, and a good deal of it is fairly innocuous. Ice cream producers, for instance, can mix minute amounts of other flavors into chocolate ice cream to reduce waste. The flavor is masked and no one knows the difference. Pasta makers can grind misshapen pieces into semolina.

However, it is also sometimes the case that mold, bacteria or live insects or insect parts are found in foods and the producer simply removes the visible contamination and blasts it with heat to kill toxins. It is impossible, according to MSNBC, to know whether foods have been reconditioned. Keeping all mold, bacteria or insect parts out of food is nearly impossible.



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