The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is working with Ruiz Foods, Inc. to recall El Monterey brand breakfast burritos because multiple consumers have found small rocks inside the product.
Ruiz Foods, Inc. is recalling more than 246,000 pounds of frozen breakfast burritos after the company reported the problem to the FSIS. The specific products posing a food safety concern are family size 8-packs of El Monterey egg, potato, bacon, and cheese sauce wraps.
Identify the Recalled Products
The burrito recall includes two complete lots of products, which were shipped nationwide. Consumers can identify the products by looking for “best by” dates of January 17, 2020 and January 18, 2020. The packages also have lot codes of 19017 or 19018.
The manufacturer did not offer any explanation for how the small rocks came to be inside of their product. To their credit, Ruiz immediately pulled the products from shelves after receiving reports of from consumers about the food safety concern.
Even though the burritos are no longer in stores, it is possible consumers may have the products in their freezers. Consumers who regularly purchase El Monterey brand frozen breakfast burritos should check their freezers for products included in this recall.
The FSIS urges consumers who have the breakfast burritos to discard them or return them to their place of purchase. Never take a chance by eating a recalled product.
Rocks are a Food Safety Risk
According to the recall notice, three consumers have filed a report about finding small rocks inside the breakfast burritos. One report indicates an injury due to a consumer biting into a rock while eating a contaminated burrito. Neither the company nor the FSIS have released information about the specific injury.
Rocks are a food safety risk for several reasons. Consumers can experience a variety of injuries from foreign materials in food, such as:
- Mouth and tongue lacerations
- Dental injury
Foreign materials like rocks also pose the risk of contamination from any substances that may be present on the rocks.
Due to food safety concerns related to these breakfast burritos, the FSIS classifies this recall as a Class I. This is the highest, or most serious, class of recall. The hazards in a Class I recall represent a high potential for harm to consumers.
The Dangers of Rocks in Food
If a consumer were to swallow the rocks found in El Monterey Frozen breakfast burritos, the risks to their health range from a minor inconvenience to potentially deadly complications. Therefore, food safety concerns related to rocks include:
- Airway Obstruction – Swallowing a rock can close off the airway causing gagging, wheezing, or choking. Without emergency attention, it is possible someone could choke and die due to a rock in food.
- Infection – If a rock passes through the esophagus with no trouble, it still may cause worrisome symptoms a few days later. Sometimes foreign objects in the stomach that resist breakdown by digestive fluids can cause an infection.
- Bleeding – Passing a rock through the rectum can cause considerable discomfort and bleeding.
- Perforation – Perforation of the bowel or organs is possible due to sharp edges on rocks. This can cause internal bleeding and other damage.
The Hazards of Foreign Material in Food
Foreign material is any foreign body or unexpected substance in a food product that may cause illness or injury to a consumer. Federal regulations define a threshold of tolerance for food adulterants. No matter how unappealing, however, not all foreign material in food is harmful.
However, all foreign matter material of a certain size represents a physical hazard to the person who finds an unexpected substance in their food, especially if it is of a different texture than the food they’re eating. Imagine:
- Eating a breakfast burrito and finding a rock inside
- Biting into a soft cookie and encountering a hard pellet
- Eating a ready to eat chicken strip product and biting into metal shards
The surprise alone at finding something unexpected in your food presents a choking hazard. Then there is also the risks due to the foreign material itself.
Sources of Foreign Material
Foreign materials can be an intrinsic part of the food products themselves, such as bones, stems, or pits. Food safety inspectors more carefully regulate contaminants that are extrinsic to the food product, such as:
Foreign matter may contaminate food at any stage of production from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s own kitchen.
Food Safety and Contamination in the Public Mind
Federal agencies like the FSIS and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exist to regulate and enforce the high standards American consumers expect from their food products. By and large, federal agencies that regulate food concern themselves with contamination that is hard to see.
Food recalls related to Salmonella, E.coli, or hepatitis regularly make headlines because of the severity of the risk. Foodborne illnesses are the type of contamination that keep food safety inspectors awake at night.
For the public, foreign matter contamination is arguably much more disturbing. Fortunately, most people will only encounter serious foodborne illness by reading about it. On the other hand, everyone either has a story or knows someone who has a story about finding an unexpected foreign object in a food product. Finding a rock in a frozen burrito is certainly something people will remember and tell their neighbors, friends, and family about.
Consumers tend to have an emotional reaction to encountering an unexpected substance in food. As a result, they are usually not shy about sharing the tales of these experiences. Perhaps the risk of injury from a physical hazard like shards of broken glass or tiny pieces of rock in food is what makes the memory stick in consumers’ minds.
Do You Have a Food Safety Concern?
If you or a member of your family is battling an injury due to a foreign object in a food product, contact Bad Food Recall. Speak to a food safety attorney about your rights as a consumer, and what options you may have.
If you have medical bills as a result of an injury caused by foreign material in your food, you may be able to recover compensation. Contact Bad Food Recall to find out if you have an actionable claim. For a free consultation, call us at 1-877-534-5750, or contact us online.