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Starter for tempeh tied to salmonella outbreak

A tainted starter for tempeh soybean meat substitute is being recalled after an outbreak of a rare type of salmonella that has sickened more than 90 people, mostly in North Carolina.

Indonesianfoodsmart.com of Rockville, Md., is voluntarily recalling all packages of its tempeh starter yeast because of the potential for salmonella contamination, the company announced Wednesday.

The product was used to make previously recalled packages of unpasteurized soybean tempeh recalled May 1 by Smiling Hara of Asheville, N.C.  Lab tests showed the product was contaminated with a strain of Paratyphi B salmonella, the same strain detected in at least 88 illnesses in North Carolina, mostly in Buncombe County, health officials said.

A handful of illnesses have been reported in a few other states, said Gaylen Ehrlichman, a spokeswoman for the Buncombe County Department of Health.

The tempeh starter was imported from Indonesia. After federal Food and Drug Administration officials notified the Maryland company of the problem, the firm discontinued operations.

Infections in this outbreak have been spread by eating the product, by contact with surfaces contaminated by the product and through person-to-person contact, health officials said.

It’s not clear whether the outbreak is over. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that for every case of salmonella reported, about 29 go undetected. Using that multiplier, more than 2,270 people may have been sickened by the tainted tempeh and the starter.

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