On April 7, Ferrero, a multinational manufacturer of branded chocolate and confectionery products, issued a voluntary recall of two of its Kinder chocolate products in the United States. The company said the products were recalled because they were manufactured in a facility in Belgium where the salmonella typhimurium bacteria was detected. That facility has temporarily been shut down following an investigation by European health officials.
A few days after the recall was issued, multiple social media posts (here and here) popped up on Facebook with photos attached claiming the company’s Ferrero Rocher hazelnut Easter eggs and other Ferrero products were contaminated with traces of salmonella. Users claimed small round marks in the chocolate were salmonella bacteria. Other photos online of what some people have labeled “Ferrero Rocher bacteria eggs” can also be found on Google Images.
Do these photos of Ferrero chocolate Easter eggs show salmonella bacteria?
- Ferrero Recall Notice
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
- Ferrero spokesperson
- Meredith Carothers, food safety expert at the USDA
- Kerry Beal, chocolatier and shelf life tutor at Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts
No, these photos of Ferrero chocolate Easter eggs do not show salmonella because the bacteria cannot be seen with the naked eye.
WHAT WE FOUND
Salmonella bacteria are the most frequently reported causes of foodborne illness, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In fact, the salmonella family includes over 2,300 serotypes of bacteria, which are one-celled organisms too small to be seen without a microscope.
Most people with salmonella infection have diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps that usually begin six hours to six days after infection and last four to seven days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website. Most people recover from salmonella infection within four to seven days without antibiotics, but the CDC says people with salmonella infection should drink extra fluids as long as the diarrhea symptoms last to prevent dehydration.
In an email, USDA food safety expert Meredith Carothers told VERIFY that salmonella does not usually affect the taste, smell, or appearance of food, including chocolate, because “you can’t see, taste or smell these bacteria.”
A Ferrero spokesperson also told VERIFY in a statement that “salmonella cannot be seen with the naked eye” when asked about the photos being shared on Facebook.
“The photos in question do not look like an infestation,” the spokesperson said. “The photos rather seem to show granini, a term for sugar and oil congealing when the product undergoes temperature changes.”
“Depending upon the temperature at which the product was stored, the oils and sugar can separate and then solidify giving the appearance of white spots throughout the spread,” the spokesperson continued.
Kerry Beal is a chocolatier and shelf life tutor at Ecole Chocolat Professional School of Chocolate Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia. She told VERIFY in an email that the spots depicted in the Facebook photos are not a sign of salmonella.
“They might actually just be fat that has separated from the filling,” Beal said. “Fillings and spreads are typically emulsions (a mixture of fat and liquid) and an emulsion that has split may have fat bubbles or slicks (think hollandaise sauce).”
Beal explained that “salmonella generally doesn’t cause any notable change in the chocolate.”
“It might be present from the initial handling and contamination of cocoa beans, and if they are not roasted to sufficient temperature may remain [thus] contaminating the chocolate,” Beal said.
Health officials investigating the recall in Europe said on April 12 that they suspect the salmonella contamination may be linked to bad buttermilk at Ferrero’s Belgian factory.
The recall only impacts two products sold in the U.S. — Kinder Happy Moments Chocolate Assortment and Kinder Mix Chocolate Treats Confections Assortment Basket.
The Kinder Happy Moments Chocolate Assortment is distributed at BJ’s Wholesale Club stores and at select Costco locations in the Bay Area of California and Northern Nevada. Meanwhile, the Kinder Mix Chocolate Treats Confections Assortment Basket is distributed in 14 Big Y Supermarket locations and has already been removed from store shelves, the spokesperson told VERIFY.
A few of the photos being shared on Facebook feature Ferrero Collection Hazelnut Crispy Eggs. According to the spokesperson, this product is distributed by Ferrero USA in the U.S. and is not impacted by the current recall.
People who have purchased the recalled products should not eat them and may contact the Ferrero customer service line at 1-800-688-3552 or via Ferrero’s website for product replacement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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