Cape Girardeau County's health department issues alert about recall of Lean Cuisine dinners

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Small pieces of hard plastic are being blamed for the recall of some frozen chicken dinners sold under the Lean Cuisine label.

About 879,000 pounds of frozen chicken meals fell under the national recall order, issued this week by the the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The problem was discovered after the company received a single complaint of an injury.

The Cape Girardeau County Health Department issued an e-mail alert Tuesday afternoon, but the alert was not news to Schnucks manager Dennis Marchi.

"We know about recalls before the health department does," he said.

Derek Honaas, environmental public health specialist for Cape Girardeau County Health Department, said the alert was sent out to help consumers check their freezers.

"The manufacturer calls our food safety department in St. Louis. Believe it or not, most of those recalls are after 5 p.m. Then the food safety department sends out an urgent voice mail to the stores."

He said the message specifically targets the co-managers and the department head of the food section, in this case frozen foods. The company also calls the managers at home, using a robo-call system to repeat the calls until someone answers and acknowledges the information.

"We take the product with that specific code off the shelves and put it in a storage freezer until we get further instructions," Marchi said. "Most of the time, it's destroyed."

He said store managers are responsible for sending an e-mail to help companies account for every package.

The recalled packages include the 9.5-ounce pesto chicken with bow tie pasta with the code 8280595912 and use-by date of May 2010; 10.5-ounce Chicken Mediterranean meals coded 8231595912 or 8241595912 and a use-before date of September 2010; codes 8263595912, 8269595911 or 8274595912, all October 2010; or codes 8291595912 or 8301595912 and a use-by date of November 2010; and the 12.5-ounce Chicken Tuscan meals imprinted with 8234595911 and September 2009; 8253595911 or 8269595912 and Oct. 2009; or 8292595911 or 8296595911 and a use-by date of Nov. 2009.

Each package also bears the USDA mark of inspection as well as the establishment number "EST P-9018."

Marchi said recalls, while not uncommon, often involve a label or packaging error.

For example, Amy's Kitchen Inc. of Santa Rosa, Calif., recently recalled its Tofu Scramble in a Pocket Sandwich Lot 10 H148 after determining the supposedly nondairy product contained milk.

Other items, such an acne cream sold locally as "DG Maximum Strength Acne Medicated Gel" at Dollar General and "Equate: Medicated Acne Gel" sold by Wal-Mart, have been recalled for medical reasons. The acne cream contained a bacteria, Burkholderia cepacia, which could cause people with weakened immune systems to develop infections, including pneumonia, though no incidents had been reported.

Attempts to reach someone to speak for Cape Girardeau's Wal-Mart were unsuccessful.

To learn more about current recalls, reporting and notification processes, visit


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