- Nestlé announced a voluntary recall of its ready-to-bake refrigerated Nestlé Toll House Cookie Dough products because of the potential presence of food-grade rubber pieces. The recall only covers specific batch codes of its refrigerated Nestlé Toll House Cookie Dough bars, tubs and tube-shaped "chubs." The company did not say how many total products had been impacted.
- The company said in a release it is taking this step "out of an abundance of caution" after receiving some reports of rubber in products. Nestlé said it has already identified and fixed the cause of the problem.
- There have not been any illnesses or injuries reported yet that required medical treatment, according to Nestlé. "We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this action represents to both our consumers and retail customers," the company said.
About 10 years after Nestlé's major recall of its Toll House refrigerated raw cookie dough, the company is facing the issue again. This time though it could be less damaging to the company's reputation.
For the recall this week, Nestlé said certain products were contaminated with food-grade rubber and no one was seriously hurt. That's drastically different from 2009 when the company recalled its dough because of E. coli contamination after 72 people in 30 states were sickened and 34 were hospitalized. At that time, the Food and Drug Administration found a contaminated sample at the company's plant in Virginia. The pathogen was later traced to flour. That recall resulted in a public education campaign warning shoppers about the risks of consuming foods containing raw flour or raw eggs.
Cookie dough has faced its fair share of issues when it comes to contamination because many consumers enjoy eating the raw product. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA have warned against eating dough raw, so consumers are already cautious around the product. In most cases, when cookie dough is recalled it is because of pathogen contamination. In 2016, Blue Bell and its ingredient supplier Aspen Hills both expanded recalls of their products containing cookie dough because of listeria contamination.
Despite the challenges, the company's signature Toll House product line has done well as it continues to innovate. Nestlé just rolled out an edible cookie dough product under its Toll House brand this year. This recall could make some consumers hesitant to buy Toll House products, but others may take comfort in the fact that Nestlé has taken ownership of the problem and quickly addressed it.
Finding rubber in foods is not uncommon. Earlier this year, Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms recalled 36,000 pounds and 16,011 pounds of chicken nuggets, respectively, for rubber contamination. Recalls are usually caused by undeclared allergens or pathogens such as listeria, E. coli and salmonella.
The discovery of foreign material is more unlikely, but has been increasing. From 2016 to 2018, possible contamination of foreign material caused more than 18% of recalls from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according agency data reported by The New Food Economy. That's a drastic increase from the two years before that when the number was only about 7%.
This latest recall happened despite Nestlé's efforts to prioritize food safety. In 2016, the company unveiled a $31 million state-of-the-art expansion of its Nestlé Quality Assurance Center in Ohio. The facility was intended to perform food safety and quality assurance testing to ensure all of its products, ingredients and manufacturing equipment meet regulatory requirements as well as Nestlé's internal quality standards. But it seems even with heightened awareness, those efforts can still sometimes fall short.
After any recall, a brand's reputation and consumer trust is on the line. But since the company isn't talking about exactly how large the scale of the recall is and already said that the issue is resolved, Nestlé might not lose consumer confidence in the iconic brand. One recent study found many consumers will go back to buying their favorite product after a recall in as little as one week from when it returns to shelves. If that is true with Toll House's Cookie Dough, then this might be a minor short-term issue for the world's largest food manufacturer.