CANADA – Due to concerns over Listeria contamination, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for several plant-based beverages, specifically Silk and Great Value brand almond, cashew, coconut, and oat milk.

The recall responds to a foodborne illness outbreak, with reported illnesses linked to these products. Consumers are advised to discard or return the recalled beverages to the purchase location.

Listeria contamination in food is particularly insidious because the affected products may appear normal without any signs of spoilage.

However, consumption can lead to severe health issues. Symptoms of Listeria infection include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache, and neck stiffness. The CFIA emphasizes the importance of heeding the recall to avoid these potentially serious health risks.

This recall follows a similar action by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK, which recently issued a recall for Ensure NutriVigor plant-based nutritional shakes due to undeclared milk allergens.

This oversight poses a significant health risk for individuals with milk allergies or intolerances. The affected products, in 400- and 850-gram containers, have specific batch codes that consumers should check.

The incidents highlight broader food safety challenges faced by the plant-based food industry. Plant-based alternatives often have different safety profiles compared to their animal-based counterparts.

One key issue is microbial growth, as alternative milk products have a near-neutral pH, high moisture content, and high protein levels, making them susceptible to contamination.

Cross-contamination from animal ingredients poses another risk, especially in facilities that process animal and plant-based products. Undeclared allergens in vegan-labeled products can lead to severe health consequences, costly recalls, and reputational damage.

Other challenges include off flavors that can develop during the processing of plant materials and the need for effective formulation to mask these tastes.

The shelf life of plant-based proteins also requires careful consideration, involving studies on formulation, reformulation, and process validation to determine expiration dates and ensure product safety.

Additionally, contaminants like heavy metals, herbicides, and hexane in plant-based components necessitate rigorous testing to confirm their safety.

The diversity of raw materials in plant-based products often leads to higher spoilage risks than animal proteins. Therefore, comprehensive monitoring and control measures are essential to safeguard consumer health and maintain trust in these increasingly popular alternatives.

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