Chobani pulls some Greek yogurt from store shelves following reports of ill customers

Chobani, the maker of a popular brand of Greek yogurt, is removing some of its products from store shelves in response to reports of sick customers:

Chobani said that most of the affected products have already been pulled from shelves. The company, based in New Berlin, N.Y., said the affected products came from its Idaho facility and represent less than 5 percent of its total production.

The containers are marked with the code 16-012 and expiration dates Sept. 11 to Oct. 7.

In an interview, Chobani CEO Hamid Ulukaya said it was the company’s decision to move to a recall, not the FDA’s. He said the problem was caused by a type of mold that is commonly found in dairy environments. The issue has been “totally fixed,” he said, noting that the mold became a problem because Chobani doesn’t use preservatives in its products.

Ulukaya did not say exactly how many reports of illnesses the company received, but said it was not in the hundreds or thousands.

“Everybody in the company took this hard,” Ulukaya said. “It shook us up.”

This week, the company was responding online to customers who were complaining about their yogurt. One person said her yogurt was “unnervingly fizzy” and another said it tasted like “wine.”

Associated Press

Ulukaya established Chobani in 2005 with a federal small business loan. Last year, the company won an award for entrepreneurship from the federal government:

Chobani has come a long way since the days of one buyer, five employees and the remains of a shuttered yogurt plant in New York. . . .

“We aimed at people who never liked yogurt,” Ulukaya said in a statement. . . . “We couldn’t blame them because what was available was not what the rest of the world was eating.”

The Turkish immigrant’s bet on the Greek yogurt market was well timed and well executed, and company quickly found its products on the shelves of grocery stores across the country as consumers began demanding all-natural and more nutritional food products.

Chobani now ships 1.7 million cases of its distinctive tasting yogurt weekly to stores nationwide and employs more than 1,200 people. The company plans to hire an additional 400 workers when it opens its new facility later this year in Idaho, which at 900,000 square feet is slated to be the largest plant of its kind in the United States.

“Even though we make a lot of it, every batch has attention from us, meeting certain criteria to make sure it’s good,” Ulukaya said. “We want to make good yogurt.”

J.D Harrison

The Food and Drug Administration is reportedly discussing the contamination with Chobani.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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