September 6, 2013 — The Greek yogurt producer Chobani has revealed that the mold implicated in a massive yogurt recall is Mucor circinelloides, a type of fungus that is commonly found in soil and plants.
Mucor circinelloides also grows on industrial stirred-tank fermenters that are used to make yogurt and cheese, according to a resource from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
Chobani CEO Hamid Ulukaya issued the following statement on the company’s website:
“While this type of mold is common in the dairy environment, particularly when using only natural ingredients that are absent of artificial preservatives, it’s still unacceptable to me and all of our yogurt makers.”
Mucor circinelloides has been linked to cases of spoiled yogurt in the past. However, the mold is unlikely to cause food poisoning in healthy adults, according to Professor Randy Worobo of Cornell University. He said the mold only grows on yogurt when the product is above refrigeration temperatures for several hours or days.
Although most consumers are not at risk of food poisoning from Mucor circinelloides, it can cause invasive, life-threatening infections under some circumstances. This infection is called zygomycosis or mucormycosis, and it typically only occurs in people with compromised immune systems. The fungus has a tendency to infect blood vessels, which can cause severe tissue necrosis that requires surgical debridement.
In 2009, the Journal of Clinical Microbiology published a study linking the Mucor circinelloides mold to a serious skin infection on a person’s jaw and face.
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