Food Safety Magazine

News | February 10, 2014

FDA Investigating Illnesses Linked to Uncle Ben's Rice; Recall Under Way

By Staff

FDA Investigating Illnesses Linked to Uncle Ben's Rice; Recall Under Way

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local officials have been investigating a cluster of illnesses associated with Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Mexican Flavor sold in 5- and 25-pound bags. The manufacturer, Mars Foodservices, is recalling all bags and all lot numbers of its Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice products produced in 2013 (see details below). Although this product is not typically marketed to individual consumers, it may be available over the Internet and at warehouse-type retailers.

On Feb. 7, 2014, the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network (CORE) was notified of a cluster of illnesses at three public schools in Katy, TX. Thirty-four students and four teachers experienced burning, itching rashes, headaches and nausea for 30 to 90 minutes, before the symptoms went away. Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Mexican Flavor with the lot number 351EKGRV01, made by Mars Foodservices of Greenville, MS, was the common food item eaten by ill students.

On Dec. 4, 2013, the Illinois Department of Public Health notified CDC of 25 children with similar skin reactions following a school lunch that served an Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice product. North Dakota reported a similar incident that occurred on Oct. 30, 2013. Three children in a daycare and one college student experienced flushing reactions 45 minutes after consuming an Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice product.

Mars Foodservices is recalling all bags and all lot numbers of its Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice products produced in 2013:

  • Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Roasted Chicken Flavor (5 and 25 pounds)
  • Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Garlic & Butter Flavor (5 pounds)
  • Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Mexican Flavor (5 and 25 pounds)
  • Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Pilaf (5 pounds)
  • Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Saffron Flavor (5 pounds)
  • Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Cheese Flavor (5 pounds)
  • Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice Spanish Flavor (25 pounds)

Out of an abundance of caution, the FDA is warning foodservice companies and consumers not to use any Uncle Ben’s Infused Rice products sold in 5- and 25-pound bags. Foodservice companies and consumers who have purchased the products should not use the rice, and should return it to their point of purchase or dispose of it.

Uncle Ben’s Brand Ready to Heat, Boxed, Bag or Cup products sold at grocery stores and other retail outlets are not being recalled.

Investigation into this outbreak continues.