The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a warning against eating Uncle Ben’s rice products served at schools and other food service institutions after children in three states developed skin reactions and other adverse reactions.
Mars Foodservices of Rancho Dominguez, California, is recalling 5 and 25-pound bags of rice. The bags are usually sold to food service companies that typically distribute to restaurants, schools, hospitals and other commercial establishments. However, they are also available to consumers on the Internet and in certain warehouse retailers.
The recall does not affect Uncle Ben’s brand Ready-to-Heat, boxed, bag or cup products, which are sold in grocery stores and other retail outlets.
The FDA stated 34 children and four teachers in Katy, Texas, had experienced burning, itching rashes, headaches and nausea 30-90 minutes after eating the rice on February 6th. The symptoms did finally go away. The agency is still investigating the Texas incident.
FDA officials reported that they did find an excess of niacin, also known as B-3 in Uncle Ben’s food service rice linked to similar reactions in 25 Illinois school children on December 4th. That incident also prompted a recall, but the Texas illnesses were not related to those previously recalled lots.
The agency said it has not confirmed that the Texas incident was also caused by niacin, but the symptoms are similar. Another incident was reported in North Dakota on October 30th, when three children in day care and one college student had skin reactions after eating an Uncle Ben’s rice product.
The FDA said overexposure to niacin can cause skin reactions and in very large doses can cause indigestion and nausea. Children may be most susceptible, but the agency said that the levels of niacin found in the Illinois rice samples probably were not high enough to cause serious health consequences.
The recalled products are the 5 pound and 25 pound bags of Uncle Ben’s flavor-infused rice, including roasted chicken flavor, garlic and butter flavor, Mexican flavor, saffron flavor, cheese flavor, Spanish flavor and Uncle Ben’s Rice Pilaf.
While Mars Foodservice has been working with the FDA and its’ buyers to get the rice out of lunch lines, agency officials said they are concerned that some consumers may be able to purchase the rice through the Internet or at warehouse-type retailer stores.
As of Monday, several of the recalled products were still available on Amazon.com.
Mars Foodservices said the affected product was made in a plant in Greenville, Mississippi.
The FDA said food service companies and consumers who have purchased the products should not use the rice and could return it to the place of purchase or just dispose of the rice.
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