ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque-based Bueno Foods pulled its frozen green chile product from store shelves Tuesday after the listeria monocytogenes bacteria was identified in an uncooked sample.
One of New Mexico’s largest chile purveyors, the 62-year-old company announced a voluntary recall of the possibly contaminated product in what it’s calling a “precautionary measure.”
Bueno Foods said in a news release that the product is “unlikely to pose any risk to the public health,” citing tests that showed no listeria was present when samples of the product were cooked to the label’s printed specifications.
A 13-ounce tub of Bueno’s mild, chopped green chile reads: “Keep frozen. Cook to 165 F.”
The green chile hasn’t caused any reported illness to date, according to the company.
The New Mexico Department of Health is aware of the recall but hasn’t been involved in any investigation, spokesman Kenny Vigil said.
There have been no recent confirmed cases of listeria infection in the state, he said.
A federal Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman said late Tuesday that the agency was aware of the recall and has been “engaged with the firm.”
“Bueno is taking this action because we are committed to providing a safe food supply to our customers,” Bueno President Jackie Baca said in a statement. “We pride ourselves as having some of the highest health and safety standards in the industry and are taking this action as a precaution.”
The recall is limited to the in-store and food-service frozen green chile products and does not affect any of Bueno’s other products such as prepared food, tamales, tortillas or red chile, the company said.
Bueno expects to have its green chile products back in stores in two weeks.
A test run by a food-service customer revealed the bacteria, according to the company.
Bueno has a full-time field inspector who monitors crops, according to its website, and the company also conducts “50 to 100 quality checks per hour to ensure superior product quality and food safety.”
Bueno said its packaging details proper storage and cooking instructions.
Eating food contaminated with listeria monocytogenes can cause the infection listeriosis. Typical symptoms include fever and muscle aches, sometimes occurring after diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems, and it primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and those with compromised immune systems, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A high-profile 2011 outbreak linked to Colorado-grown cantaloupes resulted in 33 deaths, including at least four in New Mexico.
Distributors and stores have been notified about the chile recall, though the company did not say exactly how many are affected.
Bueno’s green chile is sold throughout New Mexico and the Southwest.
Its products are available at a number of New Mexico stores, according to Bueno’s website, including most of the major grocery chains.
All of Bueno’s green chile is grown in New Mexico and processed at the company’s Albuquerque plant, according to the company.
Jaye Hawkins, executive director of the New Mexico Chile Association, estimated that Bueno is the state’s second-largest distributor of New Mexico chile.
“It does have implications for the entire chile industry, so I’m really very pleased with the way they’re handling it,” she said.
Hawkins said she couldn’t remember a previous recall related to New Mexico chile and that she’s hopeful the issue doesn’t spark panic.
“I sincerely hope not, because I don’t think there is need for panic here,” she said.
Bueno produces 150 food service and retail products, according to a 2011 Journal story, and operates a 110,000-square-foot plant on Fourth Street SW.