CHICAGO (Nov. 1) - Almost five million Totino's and Jeno's frozen pizzas with pepperoni toppings are being recalled because the pepperoni may be contaminated with E. coli, General Mills Inc. said on Thursday.
General Mills, which owns the Totino's and Jeno's brands, said the recall affects about 414,000 cases of pizza products currently in stores and all similar pizza products that might be in consumers' freezers. Each case contains 12 pizzas.
The possible E. coli contamination was uncovered by state and federal authorities investigating 21 E. coli-related illnesses in 10 states.
General Mills said nine of the 21 people reported having eaten Totino's or Jeno's pizza with pepperoni topping at some point before becoming ill.
The people became ill between July 20 and Oct. 10, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said, adding that all the patients recovered.
The people did not have packages with dates codes or other information General Mills needs to narrow down which pizzas might be affected, General Mills spokesman Tom Forsythe said, adding that, for the same reason, the company could not determine which of its suppliers provided the pepperoni.
E.coli is a potentially deadly bacteria that can cause bloody diarrhea and dehydration. The very young, seniors and persons with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable to food borne disease.
The recall includes eight types of Totino's brand frozen pizza and three types of Jeno's brand frozen pizza with pepperoni topping, or pepperoni in combination with other toppings.
The frozen pizzas were produced in its Wellston, Ohio, plant and distributed throughout the United States. The plant is currently making other pizzas, but not with pepperoni, General Mills spokesman Tom Forsythe said.
Forsythe said the company had yet to determine the cost of the recall.
General Mills shares were down $1.08, or 1.87 percent, at $56.65 late on Thursday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock is down 1.7 percent this year, compared with a 0.35 percent increase for the Standard & Poor's packaged foods index.
Reporting by Nicole Maestri and Brad Dorfman