An ongoing Salmonella outbreak has been linked to imported tahini. While performing a routine inspection, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene tested samples of Karawan brand tahini and found they contained Salmonella Concord. The outbreak has reportedly caused Salmonella illness in three states. Here is what we know so far.
A Comprehensive Recall of Karawan Brand Tahini
On May 15, 2019 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert about Karawan and Halva tahini. The FDA had requested that the products be recalled. The following day, tahini importer Broddzenatti Holdings LLC of Jupiter, FL, announced their first recall of Karawan brand tahini products.
Two days later, the importer expanded the recall to encompass all Karawan tahini products ever imported to the United States, including those arriving before December 2018 and up to the most recent shipment in April 2019. All Karawan or El-Karawan brand tahini products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.
Identify Recalled Karawan Tahini
The recall applies to tahini imported from Palestine from December 2018 and January 2019. Since all Karawan tahini is included in this recall, identifying the possibly contaminated product is easy. Unlike most food recalls, there is no need to inspect the label for lot numbers or “best by” dates.
Consumers can identify Karawan products by their distinct logo. The logo includes a standing dove and a bright blue background. Some of the containers of tahini are labeled in the Roman alphabet, but some are also marked in Arabic.
The most important detail, and the one that could be the most potentially dangerous to consumers, is that both the 16 oz. jars and the 39 pound commercial size buckets may be contaminated with Salmonella. The 39 pound buckets of tahini are far more likely to be in commercial kitchens than in a private home. For that reason, officials warned consumers and restaurants to check tahini products and avoid using recalled tahini.
The FDA has not released a list of retail locations that accepted shipments of the Salmonella-tainted tahini. However, we do know that the products were distributed to New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Virginia.
If you have any Karawan (sometimes labeled El-karawan tahini) in your home, discard it or return it to where you purchased it. Restaurants that identify Karawan tahini should immediately stop using the product and contact the manufacturer.
Salmonella Illness Associated with Karawan Tahini
The strain of Salmonella Concord associated with the tahini recall has affected people in three states so far. The total recall of all Karawan products may have been sufficient to contain the outbreak for now because the most recently reported case of Salmonella was made on March 23, 2019. On the other hand, with a shelf-stable product like this, a new rash of Salmonella illnesses could spring up at any time.
This Salmonella outbreak is supposedly not related to last year’s salmonella outbreak also tied to imported tahini products. The strain of Salmonella Concord that has been making people sick recently has only been found in Karawan brand tahini. Consumers have suffered through two separate tahini-related Salmonella outbreaks in two consecutive years.
Food that May be Impacted by Salmonella Outbreak
Tahini is a sesame seed-based paste or sauce most often used in Middle Eastern cuisine. It can be served as garnish, and is rarely offered alone. Most often it is mixed in a dish like:
- Baba ganoush
- Middle-eastern style desserts, especially some ice creams
If you love Middle Eastern food, be aware of products that contain tahini. At restaurants, ask for the brand of tahini used before dipping into an order of hummus. This could help you avoid the potentially serious health risks of Salmonella illness.
Unique Dangers of Recalled Shelf Stable Products
Unlike many of the recalls we track here at Bad Food Recall, this tahini product is considered “shelf stable”. That means it is a non-perishable item that won’t spoil quickly. That also means that it could prolong consumers’ exposure to Salmonella illness. Long after this recall has faded from the headlines, consumers may still have this tahini on their shelves.
Unlike fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat that will expire within a week or two, this tahini has expiration dates up to two years after its arrival in the U.S. The danger fresh or frozen foods can pose to consumers will flare up and burn out on its own, but a product like this may well have a lingering effect producing sporadic cases of Salmonella for months or years to come.
To avoid a resurgence of Salmonella illness from this same product, the FDA is urging all consumers to check their pantries and cabinets now to remove Karawan brand tahini before it has a chance to make anyone else sick. Anyone with signs of food poisoning or Salmonella, should contact their doctor if they have consumed the recalled tahini.
Have you Suffered from this Salmonella Outbreak?
Salmonella is one of the most common foodborne illnesses. Food that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria will usually not taste or even look spoiled. Still, bacteria can make anyone sick, but it is particularly dangerous to:
- Adults with a compromised immune system
- Pregnant women
Their fragile immune systems put them at greater risk of experiencing serious complications when exposed to a Salmonella outbreak. The symptoms of Salmonella infection commonly include:
- Stomach pain and cramping
Symptoms generally appear within 12 to 72 hours of exposure to the bacteria. They generally last between 4-7 days for a healthy adult.
Among healthy adults, the biggest concern is dehydration caused by diarrhea, which can require hospitalization. For the vulnerable groups mentioned above, Salmonella infection can cause serious and life-threatening complications.
Deep Clean to Avoid the Spread of Salmonella Illness
If you find Karawan tahini in your home, dispose of it immediately and clean the shelf or surface where you stored it with hot and soapy water. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and hot water after cleaning up after Salmonella-contaminated products.
Have Questions about a Salmonella Outbreak?
Of all the recalls Bad Food Recall has tracked this year, the potential for harm in this recall seems the longest-lasting. A shelf-stable product that won’t expire until long after this recall is old news can have long-ranging effects. Salmonella can be quite serious. If you cook with tahini at home, check for this brand and protect your family from a serious bout of food poisoning.
If you have been diagnosed with Salmonella after eating Karawan tahini, you may have a legal claim due to your illness. When importers bring food into the U.S. and distribute it among the populace, they can be held responsible when that food fails to live up to safety standards.