Breakfast of Champions

We don’t do a lot of reporting on food recalls here, but this recent one really caught my eye.

“On April 5, Malt-O-Meal announced that it was voluntarily recalling its unsweetened Puffed Rice and unsweetened Puffed Wheat Cereals produced with ‘Best If Used By’ codes between April 8, 2008 (coded as ‘APR0808’) and March 18, 2009 (coded as ‘MAR1809’) because they may have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. The recalled product was distributed nationally, marketed under the Malt-O-Meal brand and as some private label brands including Acme, America’s Choice, Food Club, Giant, Hannaford, Jewel, Laura Lynn, Pathmark, Shaw’s, ShopRite, Tops and Weis Quality.”

The above comes straight from the Malt-O-Meal website ( I have just one question: How in the hell do you manage to get your puffed rice cereal infected with salmonella?

For those who don’t know, salmonella are a group of bacteria known to cause diarrheal illness in humans. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “They [the salmonella bacteria] are microscopic living creatures that pass from the feces of people or animals, to other people or other animals…Salmonella live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, including birds. Salmonella are usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. Contaminated foods usually look and smell normal. Contaminated foods are often of animal origin, such as beef, poultry, milk, or eggs, but all foods, including vegetables may become contaminated.”

So once again, I ask you: How did the good people at Malt-O-Meal manage to contaminate a batch of rice? I have a couple of ideas...

1) New “Bring Your Chicken to Work Day” policy at Malt-O-Meal packaging facility.

2) Employees in the rice puffing department using the conveyor belts for illegal, after-hours pheasant races.

3) The ill-advised hiring of Jimmy “Shit-Hands” McGee in the quality assurance division.

4) Lunch break egg-toss game got completely out of hand.

5) All a part of the new Malt-O-Meal “Live Microbe Giveaway” promotion.

6) Unscheduled product testing of new Malt-O-Meal “Puffed Beef” brand breakfast cereal. – Jason Sheehan

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun