Trendy oat milk brand Oatly expands recall of drinks after potential microbial contamination 

Trendy oat milk brand Oatly – backed by Oprah, Jay Z and Natalie Portman – expands drinks recall over microbial contamination fears

  • Another two Oatly oat milk products have been recalled due to potential microbial contamination
  • The standard oat milk and chocolate oat milk Oatly products now join its ‘Barista edition’ on the recall list
  • The FDA reports that poor commercial sanitation is to blame for the contamination
  • Oatly has rocketed to popularity in America in recent years, and has the backing of Hollywood stars like Oprah, Jay-Z and Natalie Portman 

A recall of oat milk products produced by the popular brand Oatly has been expanded to include three more items. The recall now includes the brand’s standard oat milk and chocolate oat milk. The ‘Barista edition’ oat milk was recalled at the end of July. 

Last month, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that poor commercial sanitation practices at Lyons Magnus plants – where Oatly products are processed have allowed for potential contamination of the bacteria Cronobacter sakazakii. 

The bacteria causes a rare infection that could be dangerous to immunocompromised people. There are no reported infections tied to the products yet.

Oatly has been at the forefront of a surge of popularity of oat milk in the U.S. in recent years. It has received backing from stars such as Jay-Z, Natalie Portman and Oprah who were each a member of a group which purchased a $200 million stake in the company in 2020. It reported $185.9 million in sales last year – a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

The Oatly recall came alongside more than 50 other products that were also processed at Lyons plants. Americans that have any of the recalled products at home are advised to either dispose of them or return them to a store for a refund.

The FDA did not give details as to how it became aware of the potential contamination and at which plants it occurred.

The Cronobacter sakazakii bacteria at the center of the recall can cause infections with symptoms that include fever, vomiting and a urinary tract infection.

Cronobacter: A rare infection that can be dangerous to infants and the elderly

Cronobacter bacteria can be found in many dry foods – but not exclusively

Infections caused by the bacteria are rare, with the CDC only reporting two to four confirmed cases each year

It is most common, and most dangerous in infants aged two-months or younger

The elderly or people with severe vulnerabilities are also at risk of severe symptoms or death from the infection

Infected infants are likely to develop meningitis as a result

Other symptoms that affect all who are infected include fever, vomiting and a urinary tract infection

The bacteria is at the center of the recall of Abbott baby formula from early 2022 

Source: CDC 

While infections are rare, the FDA warns that people who are immunocompromised or a part of another vulnerable population are at greatest risk of suffering from the contamination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports between two to four cases every year, though warns this is likely an undercount.

Infants are among the group most at risk from the infection. The recall does not include Lyons Magnus-manufactured products intended for infants.

It is the same bacteria famously at the center of the Abbott baby formula recall that sparked a shortage that has plagued the nation in recent months.

The recall also includes Pirq protein products, Stumptown cold brew coffees, and Glucerna meal replacements designed for diabetics, among others.

Oatly is the most recognizable brand in the group. The Malmo, Sweden-based company arrived in the U.S. four years ago and quickly became a favorite among younger millennials and zoomers.

Demand for the drink was so high upon its expansion into the U.S. and across Europe that it even faced supply shortages early in its initial run.

The company reported 185.9 million in sales in 2021 – a 46 percent jump from the previous year.

It registered $55 million of those sales in the Americas, nearly doubling revenue year-over-year.

Oatly has benefited greatly from a push against standard cow milk in recent years.

It comes as part of increased concerns about lactose intolerance in the population and environmental concerns surrounding the dairy industry.

The brand has earned attention from massive investors as well. In 2020, a group that included Blackstone, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, media mogul Oprah Winfrey, actress Natalie Portman and rapper Jay-Z plunged a $200 million investment into the company.

Progressive New York Rep Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has also promoted oat milk as a climate-friendly alternative to cow’s milk.

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