Mars Wrigley announced a voluntary recall of various candy products after consumers reported thin metal strands in the candy itself or loose in the bag. The products, which were recalled in the US, include Starburst, Skittles and Life Savers gummies. According to the company, products were manufactured by a third party and subsequently distributed across North America.
Although there have been no known reported illnesses due to the Mars recall, the company advised consumers on what to do if they purchased or consumed the candy products. “Mars Wrigley Confectionery US, LLC will work with retailers to remove recalled products from store shelves,” the company said in a press release. “If consumers believe they have purchased a recalled item, they should dispose of the product and not consume it.”
The Mars recall impacted 13 product stock keeping units (SKUs) ranging from 3.5-ounce to 12-ounce share size bags of gummies. Some of the candy flavors include Life Savers wild berry gummies, along with Starburst gummies sours. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted the company’s recall announcement, which includes a complete list of products affected by the recall.
Importantly, none of the recalled items are the traditional varieties of Skittles, Starbursts or Life Savers candies. Rather, they are specific packages of the “Gummies” variety of these products. Skittles gummies were the newest addition to the Mars Wrigley family, launching last spring after the new product was announced in November 2020.
The Mars recall follows the voluntary recall of about 60,000 jars of Skippy peanut butter over concerns that a limited number of jars could contain stainless steel fragments from an errant piece of manufacturing equipment last month. It also follows last year’s Coca-Cola recall of some of its beverages due to the presence of metal bolts, washers or other foreign objects.
Since metal contamination is a common issue in food production, resulting in expensive recalls and lawsuits, the FDA has implemented metal detection standards to ensure the same principles are followed for all companies. The FDA’s Health Hazard Evaluation Board outlines that metal fragments 0.3 inch to one inch (or 7mm to 25mm) in length are unacceptable if found in any products. And any foreign object less than 0.3 inch (7mm) can cause serious injury to people in special risk groups, such as infants, surgery patients and the elderly. Any foreign objects found in food products will be considered adulterated and therefore unsafe.
So why is metal contamination such a common reason for launching voluntary recalls? Foreign objects, like metals, can enter the food products from metal blades used for cutting, wires from mesh belts used to convey products, washers, nuts and bolts from mixing, cooling and dispensing machines. However, industrial metal detectors can pick up three main types of metals in food: ferrous, non-ferrous and stainless steel.
While ferrous and non-ferrous metals are conductive, they are relatively easy to detect. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is one of the hardest metals to be picked up by sensors. They are neither magnetic nor conductive and when the product is wet or has a high salt content, the detection becomes even harder. While it is unknown which type of metal was detected in the Mars recall, it was likely bypassed by sensors, resulting in consumer complaints.