Spice recall expanded

March 31, 2009 5:37:28 PM PDT
Hundreds of restaurants and stores in the Bay Area and across California may be affected by the salmonella spice scare. The Union International Food Company is voluntarily recalling several spice products because the California Department of Public Health reported more than 40 cases of salmonella poisoning.

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At Eric's Restaurant in San Francisco's Noe Valley, customers can order a typical Chinese meal but the Kung Pao chicken, broccoli beef and other dishes will no longer be flavored with spices from union international food company. The owner got rid of those.

"He (the restaurant owner) realized this was very important thing to do, so yesterday morning the first thing he did was replace every seasoning or food product from that particular company," David Nie of Eric's Restaurant said.

The Union International Food Company is based in Union City and has been in operation for about 50 years. It is voluntarily recalling several spice products packaged under the brand name Lian How and sold at retail stores under the name Uncle Chen. The spices are used primarily in Asian restaurants and include black and white pepper, paprika, and curry powder.

Health inspectors linked some of the spices to a multi-state salmonella outbreak. There have been 33 cases in California, four of them in San Francisco, but at least one case has been reported in every county in the Bay Area.

"Healthy people, it's going to be things like diarrhea, vomiting, but if you're infirmed or you're older, it could cause death," San Francisco Department of Public Health spokesperson Richard Lee said.

The health department is contacting the dozens of San Francisco restaurants on the list. But not all restaurant-goers are worried.

"For the most part I go to reputable restaurants that I really do trust," diner Dustin Duhne said.

The owner of Henry's Hunan began replacing his spices Tuesday morning.

"We've been using them for 30 some years, this is the first time something like this happened, so I was shocked," Jeff Zhu said.

The manager of the company at the center of the recall says he has had sleepless nights. Union International is shut down until it gets a clean bill of health. The manager says the recall could be financially devastating.

"Yeah, I think about that; my business (is) my life, my customers (are) my life too," Daniel Chen said.

Related Links:
Union International Food Company restaurant distribution list
Union International Food Company retail distribution list

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