Whole Foods meatballs marinara didn’t list it had cheese made from milk, health alert says

Howard Cohen
·2 min read

A beef meatballs with marinara sauce dish sold by Whole Foods Market has been flagged by federal food regulators because it contained Parmesan cheese made from milk — an allergen for some people.

The problem is the packages did not list the Parmesan cheese on the label, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s public health alert issued Thursday.

An undetermined amount of misbranded beef meatballs with marinara sauce packages were produced and sold. But “a recall was not requested because it is believed that the affected products are no longer available to be directly purchased by retail consumers,” the USDA said.

The notice is aimed at people who have allergic reactions to milk and need to know that they ought not eat the meatballs product if they bought them already. Milk allergy reactions can range from mild, such as hives, to severe symptoms like anaphylaxis, according to Food Allergery Research & Education.

What to look for

The beef meatballs with marinara sauce products subject to the public health alert are:

24-oz. clear plastic containers of “Whole Foods Market Beef Meatballs with Marinara” with a PLU code of 39496 and sell-by dates through 2/27/21.

This product was sold at Whole Foods grocers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Whole Foods notified the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when a customer reported an adverse reaction after eating the meatballs with marina, according to the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Since some of these packages may still be in your refrigerator or freezer, if you have an allergy to milk the Food Safety and Inspection Service suggests you don’t eat the meatballs and either toss them or return to the place of purchase for a refund.

Questions about the alert? Contact Nathan Cimbala in Whole Foods’ public relations department at nathan.cimbala@wholefoods.com.

Whole Foods’ earlier warning

This is not the first dance with misbranded items for the popular grocer.

In December, the FDA posted a warning letter it sent to Whole Foods “for a pattern of receiving and offering for sale misbranded food products necessitating a series of food recalls for allergens.”

The FDA said it was the first time it “warned a retailer for engaging in a pattern of receiving and offering for sale misbranded food products containing undeclared allergens.”

A Whole Foods spokesman emailed a statement to the Miami Herald in December in response. “Whole Foods Market takes food safety very seriously. We are working closely with the FDA to ensure all practices and procedures in our stores meet if not exceed food safety requirements. We remain committed to maintaining the highest quality standards in the industry.”

Miami Herald staff writer David Neal contributed to this report.