Nestle's US division said on Friday that it was voluntarily recalling its refrigerated and frozen Nestle Toll House cookie dough products as a precautionary measure after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned of the risk of contamination with E. coli bacteria.
While the CDC epidemiological analysis links these illnesses to the consumption of raw cookie dough, the E. coli strain implicated in the investigation has not been detected in any Nestlé product, the company said in a press release.
''Nestle is cooperating fully with the FDA and CDC to resolve the issue and, as soon as the situation has been clarified, Nestle USA will put this much-loved product back on the market,'' it added.
These products are sold predominantly in the US, although small quantities are also exported to Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Bahrain and Singapore.
FDA on Thursday warned consumers not to eat any varieties of these products due to the risk of contamination with E. coli O157:H7 (a bacterium that causes food borne illness).
FDA's warning is based on an ongoing epidemiological study conducted by the CDC and several state and local health departments.
Since March 2009 there have been 66 reports of illness across 28 states. Twenty-five persons were hospitalised; 7 with a severe complication called Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). No one has died.
"We want to strongly advise consumers that raw cookie dough should not be eaten," Nestle said in a statement. "This message also appears prominently on our packaging."
The FDA advises that if consumers have any prepackaged, refrigerated Nestle Toll House cookie dough products in their home that they throw them away. Cooking the dough is not recommended because consumers might get the bacteria on their hands and on other cooking surfaces.
It also asked retailers, restaurateurs, and personnel at other food-service operations not to sell or serve any Nestle Toll House prepackaged, refrigerated cookie dough products subject to the recall.
E. coli O157:H7 causes abdominal cramping, vomiting and a diarrheal illness, often with bloody stools. Most healthy adults can recover completely within a week. Young children and the elderly are at highest risk for developing HUS, which can lead to serious kidney damage and even death.
The FDA reminds consumers they should not eat raw food products that are intended for cooking or baking before consumption.
Consumers should use safe food-handling practices when preparing such products, including following package directions for cooking at proper temperatures; washing hands, surfaces, and utensils after contact with these types of products; avoiding cross contamination; and refrigerating products properly, FDA said.