Yesterday, Pinnacle Foods, the New Jersey–based manufacturer behind Aunt Jemima, announced it’d be phasing out 16 of the products in its portfolio, from frozen waffles to french toast, due to slumping sales. It was the latest plot twist in a saga that has been developing since last Friday, when the company announced a product recall that stretched across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Last Friday, Pinnacle announced it’d immediately be pulling a number of Aunt Jemima items from stores across the United States and Mexico following a discovery that one of its processing plants had become a breeding ground for listeria. The move was an entirely proactive, rather than reactive, gesture: No illnesses had been reported as of their recall announcement. One day later, though, the problem worsened slightly as the recall expanded to Canada, where three of the company’s products were suspected to be tainted with the same strains of listeria.
None of the affected products are dry mixes or syrups, but, otherwise, the recall does not discriminate: it affects all Best By dates for those recalled products, meaning Pinnacle doesn't quite have a good handle on how far back the problem stretches. Food recalls tend to attract alarmist headlines no matter their size, but these reports are, for once, requisite with the scope of the problem at hand.
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.