Honey Smacks manufacturer pleads guilty to food safety violations

Kerry, Inc., manufacturer of the breakfast cereal that was responsible for a 2018 Salmonella outbreak that sent thirty-four victims to hospital, has pled guilty in federal court to a charge that it manufactured the cereal under insanitary conditions.

The contaminated Kellogg’s Honey Smacks breakfast cereal caused 135 confirmed illnesses in 36 states.

According to a news release from the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the company has agreed to pay a criminal fine and forfeiture amount totaling $19,228,000.

The plea agreement has not yet been accepted by the court.

According to the DOJ’s news release, if the agreement is accepted, “…the $19.228 million fine and forfeiture will constitute the largest-ever criminal penalty following a criminal conviction in a food safety case.”

The company shut down operations at its Gridley, Illinois, facility in December 2018 due to a drop in demand for the products manufactured at that location.

In October 2022, Ravi Kumar Chermala, Kerry’s former Quality Assurance Director, pled guilty to three misdemeanor counts of introducing adulterated food into Interstate Commerce.

Kerry Inc. released a statement on February 3, 2023, in which the company regretted “…the unacceptable practices and failures that occurred at Gridley.”


On the Q-T

The FDA’s investigation into this Salmonella outbreak–and the subsequent actions taken against the manufacturer–have been surrounded by a veil of silence from the beginning.

Honey Smacks cereal was manufactured by Kerry Inc. under a third-party contract with the Kellogg Company. At the time of the initial investigation, the FDA declined to reveal the name of the manufacturer it believed to be responsible for the Salmonella outbreak.

It was only after the CDC had declared the outbreak to be over that the FDA revealed the name of the manufacturer.

The FDA also declined to identify the Salmonella serotype it had discovered during the inspection of Kerry’s manufacturing facility and declined to reveal whether the strain it found was a genetic match to the strain recovered from outbreak victims.

In July 2018, Kerry initiated a recall of 82 tons of Soy Honey Cluster. Two days later, General Mills recalled six production batches of Cheerios Protein Oats and Honey cereal. In both cases, the potential for Salmonella contamination was given as the reason for the recall. Yet, no public notice was posted on the FDA website in either case.

What next?

The next step in this process will be for the Court to decide whether or not to accept the plea agreement.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge James E. Shadid and Magistrate Judge Jonathan E. Hawley in Peoria, Illinois, and a sentencing date of March 14, 2023, has been set.

Information regarding upcoming court hearings or other significant developments in the case will be posted on the DOJ’s Information for Victims in Large Cases website.

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Recalls and Alerts: December 1-2, 2022

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Here is today’s list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals, allergy alerts and miscellaneous compliance issues. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.

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United States

OUTBREAK INVESTIGATION UPDATE: CDC declares the E. coli O121:H19 outbreak over. Final tally is 24 confirmed illnesses in 6 states. Five people were hospitalized. The source of the outbreak was Frozen Earth Grown Vegan Traditional Falafel and Garlic & Herb Falafel, sold in Aldi stores.


Food Safety Recall: Station Rustique (Laurier-Station, QC) recalls FÈVES AU LARD / Baked beans (500 ml & 1 L; Sold up to November 30, 2022) due to potential food safety hazard.


OUTBREAK INVESTIGATION (MULTIPLE COUNTRIES): ECDC is investigating a nine-country outbreak of Salmonella Mbandaka ST413 infections. Outbreak illnesses have been reported by Czechia (Czech Republic), Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. One person has died, and nineteen have been hospitalized out of the total of 196 confirmed and probable cases reported so far. The outbreak is thought to be linked to consumption of ready-to-eat chicken products, but a specific source has not yet been identified.

Allergy Alert (Finland): Moilas Oy recalls multiple Moilas brand gluten-free products due to undeclared gluten. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Allergy Alert (France): TOTOLA DeNeuville  recalls CRUZILLES brand PATE DE FRUITS MINI-PASTILLES ACIDULES / Fruit jellies (175g & 320g; Lot 22828) due to undeclared milk.

Allergy Alert (France): LABEYRIE FINE FOODS FRANCE recalls Blini brand Tarama Saumon Offre Découverte / Salmon Tarama Discovery Offer (255g; Lot 07223761; Use by 18/12/2022) due to undeclared milk.

Allergy Alert (France): MONOPRIX recalls Monoprix brand LA SOUPE Potimarron Graine de courge / Pumpkin seed soup (All Lots; Use by 14/12/2022) due to undeclared shrimp and celery.

Allergy Alert (Netherlands): PLUS recalls Feestelijk PLUS mini volkoren stol amandelspijs / Mini wholemeal almond paste stollen (100g; Best before 8-12-2022) due to undeclared hazelnut.

Allergy Alert (UK): Iceland Foods recalls Iceland Takeaway Pilau Rice (350g; Best before10 January 2024) due to undeclared egg, sesame, soy and wheat.

Food Safety Recall (France): NEOCADIS CENTRE E.LECLERC DE NEUFCHATEAU recalls CORMAREE brand CONGRE / Conger eel (3/5 kg; Lot 33422) due to presence of anisakis parasitic worm.

Food Safety Recall (France): COOPERATIVE U recalls U brand Brandade de morue parmentière / Cod brandade (750g & 750g + 20%; Lot 22326; Use by 02/12/2022) due to foreign matter contamination.

Food Safety Recall (France): YARDEN FRANCE  recalls YARDEN TEHINA, Salade de pâte de sésame à l’ail et au persil / Sesame paste salad with garlic and parsley (250g; Lot 2306196504; Best before 01/01/2023) due to possible Salmonella contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Germany): The Family Butchers Germany GmbH recalls K Classic Delikatess Salami geräuchert / Delicatessen smoked salami (200g; Lot #KEM0005264510; Best before 14.12.2022) due to possible foreign matter contamination (transparent plastic).

Food Safety Recall (Italy): FARTONS POLO recalls TRE MULINI brand FOCACCE CON OLIO EXTRA VERGINE DI OLIVA 8,7% / Focacce with extra virgin olive oil (200g; Lot 223740; Best before 13/01/2023) due to ochratoxin A contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Italy): SALUMIFICIO COLLI di Colli Carlo & C. snc recalls Salumificio Colli brand SALAME STAGIONATO / Seasoned salami (400/600g – 800/1000g; Lot #13092022) due to Salmonella Typhimurium contamination.

Food Safety Recall (Netherlands): Lijfering Drankengroothandel recalls three varieties of EAULALA brand sparkling waters due to foreign matter contamination (glass shards). Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Food Safety Recall (Netherlands): Makro recalls Kalfs Rosé Picanha / Veal rosé picanha (~1 kg; Batch code 990196845; Best before 03-12-2022) due to shigatoxin-producing E. coli contamination.

Food Safety Recall (UK): Nestlé UK recalls AERO Hot Chocolate products due to possible foreign matter contamination (small pieces of food grade silica beads). Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.

Australia and New Zealand

Allergy Alert (New Zealand): Foodstuffs Own Brands Ltd recalls Pams Finest brand Decadent Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies (300g; Best before 15 MAY 23) due to undeclared peanuts.

Chicken products fingered in international Salmonella outbreak

A deadly nine-nation outbreak of Salmonella Mbandaka ST413 infections is most likely due to consumption of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products and/or fresh chicken meat, such as those used in sandwiches and wraps.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control,  196 cases have been reported in nine countries, including seven member states of the European Union (EU), the United Kingdom (UK), and Israel since November 8, 2022.

Nineteen outbreak victims have been hospitalized, five of them with septicemia.

One person–a resident of the UK–has died.

Outbreak cases have been reported by the following countries:

  • Czechia (Czech Republic): 5 (none confirmed as yet)
  • Estonia: 3 (all confirmed)
  • Finland: 89 (42 confirmed and 47 possible)
  • France: 10 (all confirmed)
  • Germany: 2 (all confirmed)
  • Ireland: 1 (all confirmed)
  • Netherlands: 1 (all confirmed)
  • Israel: 4 (none confirmed as yet)
  • United Kingdom: 81 (all confirmed)

The UK was the first country to detect the outbreak, reporting a cluster of 31 cases from England (25), Scotland (3) and Wales (3) on May 20, 2022. Sample collection dates ranged between September 24, 2021 and April 23, 2022. Four of the patients were hospitalized, and one has died.

Finland followed on the UK’s heels with a report of nine cases on June 16, 2022.

The Finnish food safety authority has linked suspect products to an Estonian company, but this link could not be verified by traceback identification or microbiological analysis.

The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) is encouraging its member countries to sequence the genomes of Salmonella Mbandaka isolated from human sources and to interview those patients whose isolates match the outbreak strain.

Salmonella Mbandaka was first reported in 1948 in the Belgian Congo, where it was recovered from a patient suffering from salmonellosis.

The ST413 strain entered the Polish feed and poultry sector in the 1990s, and has been circulating in Poland and other EU countries since then.

The ECDC warns that new cases are likely to occur until the source of the outbreak has been identified and controlled.