Uncle Ben’s rice has been voluntarily recalled. Only the industrial-sized bags of infused Mexican style rice are involved. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against eating the rice in question. Several incidents of illness in schools and daycare facilities have been linked to Uncles Ben’s rice, which has led to the recall of the large bags produced in 2013.
The latest incident occurred when the rice was served in several different Texas schools on Friday. After consuming the rice for lunch, 34 students and four teachers showed signs of sickness. They felt burning, itching rashes, flushing and headaches for 60 to 90 minutes after they ate it. The FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network (CORE) was called in to address the issue on Feb. 7.
This isn’t the first incident on record for Mars Foodservice, the company that makes Uncle Ben’s rice. On Oct. 30, an incident occurred at a daycare in North Dakota where kids got sick after eating the rice. Another problem took place on Dec. 4, in which 25 kids got sick in Illinois after eating it.
The rice recall does not include products sold in grocery stores, such as the ready-made rice or boil-in-bag products. The rice in question is sold in large industrial-sized bags that are strictly sold to schools and food service companies. They were also sold online and through wholesale outlets. The exact product is Mexican flavored rice from lot number 351EKGRV01, which was made in Greenville, MS. Other flavors include spinach, saffron, rice pilaf, cheese, roasted chicken and garlic & butter.
Previous incidents were linked to too much niacin, otherwise known as vitamin B3. FDA tests on rice from the Illinois school shows a high amount of niacin content. While a niacin deficiency, known, as pellagra, is fairly rare now, it can cause itching and stomach problems.
Too much niacin, however, can also be problematic. It is a common food additive, even though children and adults who consume a variety of meats, dairy, legumes and whole wheat get plenty of it from their diet. Consuming more than 1.5 grams of niacin per day can lead to toxicity. At this level, consumers are likely to feel the itchy skin and headaches, like that of the students and teachers in Texas. More than three grams per day can lead to more severe problems, which include possible liver damage, increased risk of stroke, irregular heartbeat, worsened allergies and increased blood sugar. Overdosing on vitamins is unhealthy and can worsen the symptoms in people with existing health conditions.
Though it has not yet been confirmed that the latest illnesses in Texas are also related to a niacin overdose, a full investigation is underway. Mars Foodservice offered a voluntary recall on the rice as they fully cooperate with the FDA to find the problem and a resolution. Those who have bought the recalled rice are advised to return it or dispose of it to prevent more illnesses from occurring. Though most of the people affected so far have been children, consuming the recalled rice is dangerous for people of all ages and is likely to cause allergy-like symptoms.
By Tracy Rose