What You Need to Know About the Mold Responsible for Sickening Chobani Consumers

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Recalled Chobani yogurt may have led to nausea and cramps in 89 people.

On Monday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesperson Tamara Ward told The Time-News that the agency received dozens of reports of people getting sick after eating Chobani Greek yogurt. While the illnesses have not been definitively linked to the yogurt products, Chobani recalled 35 varieties of yogurt last week that were contaminated with a dairy mold.

The tainted yogurt cups were stamped with the code 16-012 and had expiration dates between Sept. 11 and Oct. 7.  Almost all of them have been removed from stores shelves and destroyed, according to the company.

(MORE: Food Safety: CDC Report Shows Rates of Foodborne Illnesses Remain Largely Unchanged)

In a blog post on its website, Chobani said that the type of mold found in the yogurt is Mucor circinelloides, which is commonly found in  fruits, vegetables and dairy products. The mold “has been reported to cause spoilage like swelling and bloating in yogurt. It is not considered a disease-causing foodborne microorganism,” the company writes. Health officials said the mold is not a threat to public health, and Randy Worobo, a professor of Food Science in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences wrote on behalf of Chobani noting  that the organism is regularly used in creating natural flavor and is prevalent in the food industry.

How did the mold get past the company’s quality control measures? A spokesperson told the Milwaukee -Wisconsin Journal Sentinel that the mold is hard to detect, and even one spore that isn’t identified can cause growth in a sealed up of yogurt.

“[People are] usually ok unless they have a compromised immune system. With that unfortunately you never know,” says Keri Gans, a registered dietician and nutrition consultant. According to Gans, it’s important to remember that what was found in Chobani was mold and not bacteria. Yogurt is a culture of good bacteria, including probiotics that recent studies have shown can improve digestion.

The FDA says it is continuing to work with Chobani through the recall to determine how the mold entered the yogurt and to make whatever changes are necessary to ensure such contaminations don’t occur again.