Golf balls (Getty) and potatoes (iStock).

Hash browns are suddenly making news because of a recall on frozen packages that may contain pieces of golf balls.

That would make them harsh browns.

And raises the question: How did this happen?

Were the potatoes grown in fields next to golf courses? Were golfers using potato fields as driving ranges?

“Despite our stringent supply standards,” McCain Foods USA said in a statement Friday, “extraneous golf ball materials” may have been “inadvertently harvested with potatoes used to make this product.”

The company said that, if consumed, the hash browns “may pose a choking hazard or other physical injury to the mouth.”

Weird stuff is found in food all the time, prompting recalls, although seldom do we learn how the problem occurred. For instance, last month Oklahoma-based OK Food recalled more than 900,000 pounds of breaded chicken products because of possible contamination “with extraneous materials, specifically metal.”

Metal? Like, from a chicken coop? OK Food isn’t spilling the details.


A chicken stands in a coop. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

On Saturday, the Campbell Soup Co. said it was recalling an estimated 4,185 pounds of chicken soup products because of mislabeling. Consumers who bought “Campbell’s Homestyle Healthy Request Chicken with Whole Grain Pasta” were surprised to find the cans actually contained “Campbell’s Homestyle Healthy Request Italian-Style Wedding Spinach & Meatballs in Chicken Broth” soup.

A problem, but not on the scale of golf balls.

The hash browns in question are two-pound bags of “Southern style” from Roundy’s (UPC 001115055019) and Harris Teeter (UPC 007203649020). The Roundy’s products were sent to Marianos, Metro Market and Pick ’n Save supermarkets in Illinois and Wisconsin, while the Harris Teeter hash browns were distributed in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

They look like this:

(Photos courtesy of Food and Drug Administration)

That may not be your image of hash browns if you grew up eating the deep-fried patties at McDonald’s.


(McDonald’s)

Or the shredded and fried version of hash browns popular in many diners.


A cheese omelet and hash browns at a diner in Maryland. (James M. Thresher/The Washington Post)

So what form did hash browns take when first invented? The history is disputed, according to Don Odiorne of the Idaho Potato Commission, who fields questions from the public under the persona “Dr. Potato.” (He isn’t a real doctor, but Mr. Potato Head was taken.)

For hash brown history, Dr. Potato cites Barry Popik:

Hash browns (also called ‘hashed browns,’ ‘hash brown potatoes’ and ‘hashed brown potatoes’) are a popular breakfast dish, served today at fast food restaurants almost everywhere. The term ‘hashed brown potatoes’ was used by food author Maria Parloa (1843-1909) in 1888, ‘hash brown potatoes’ is cited from 1895, ‘hash browns’ is cited from 1911 (part of lunch counter slang), and ‘hashed browns’ is cited from 1920. Hashed brown potatoes were a popular breakfast dish in New York City in the 1890s and were served in the finest hotels.

In short, people have long made them in different ways, adding their own special ingredients, although never golf balls.

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