Did the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) cook up a soup controversy this week, when it warned consumers not to eat any soups sold at Los Angeles farmers markets from two different (and unrelated) companies? The health department says the soups, from One Gun Ranch and Organic Soup Kitchen, may contain the toxin Clostridium botulinum, which, if ingested, could lead to serious illness and even death.
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There's just one problem --- no botulism has been found in any soups of One Gun Ranch or Organic Soup Kitchen. In fact, the soups have not even been tested for botulism, according to an email Squid Ink received from CDPH yesterday, stating: "CDPH did not conduct laboratory analysis on the soups."
The companies targeted by CDPH are reeling from the state's actions against their products.
"We have fed over 50,000 people in three years without incident," says Anthony Carroccio, founder and director of the Organic Soup Kitchen, which feeds homeless and low-income people in Santa Barbara. The nonprofit organization has many programs to help at-risk individuals, including feeding pregnant women and house-bound senior citizens. Proceeds from the soups, which were sold at the Calabasas and Studio City farmers markets, were used to help finance such programs.
The CDPH says no illnesses have been linked to the soups, and its statement did not indicate what triggered the state agency's sudden concern over the safety of the soups. In response to questions emailed by Squid Ink, CDPH wrote that the soups manufactured by One Gun Ranch and Organic Soup Kitchen may have the "potential" for the formation of botulism "if the processes were not sufficient to deactivate" the toxin. CDPH did not elaborate on what processes it was concerned about, but the agency said that neither company had been evaluated by the University of California Laboratory for Research in Food Preservation. It appears the state wants the companies to obtain cannery licenses.
Carroccio told us that there is nothing wrong with his soups and said that the company passed its most recent county health department inspection two weeks ago. He said the company has never had a recall of any of its products: "We do everything by the letter of the law."
Asked why the state health department is suddenly taking this action against the Organic Soup Kitchen, Carroccio responded: "That's what I wish somebody would tell me."
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Patch is still awaiting a statement from the Studio City Farmers Market and the Chamber of Commerce that co-runs the market.