Local News

Salmonella-based recall spreads to bird food

Posted March 10, 2009 4:19 p.m. EDT
Updated March 10, 2009 11:41 p.m. EDT

— State inspectors determined Tuesday that samples of Wild Birds Unlimited bird food tested positive for salmonella, prompting the Kentucky-based manufacturer to issue a recall.

The salmonella that has killed numerous birds is likely linked to a nationwide outbreak of the disease in humans, said Joe Reardon, food and drug protection director of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Burkmann Feeds immediately recalled 20-pound packages of Wild Birds Unlimited Wildlife Blend bird food with the manufacturing date code of 81132200 2916 08124. The food is sold exclusively at Wild Birds Unlimited Stores.

Wild Birds Unlimited, Inc. Chief Naturalist John F. Schaust said in a that stores “supplied by Burkmann Feeds have been notified not to sell the affected products.”

Jack Baumer, who owns two Wild Bird Unlimited stores in Cary and Raleigh, said this is the first time a seed recall was directed at one of the store’s blends. The product was pulled off of the floor.

“We are in the process of contacting our customers that have purchased the Wildlife Blend in the last three weeks,” Baumer wrote in an e-mail to WRAL News.

The agriculture department has been investigating reports of dead wild birds across the state, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said.

On Monday, Bill Kastern, a biologist and owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Aberdeen, said his shop had received numerous calls from Southern Pines residents concerned about dead birds in their yards.

Kastern said he suspected the birds were infected with avian salmonella, a strain not related to the national peanut recall.

Tuesday’s recall contradicts that opinion.

“We are pleased that the testing has enabled us to remove contaminated feed from the market,” Troxler said in a statement. “Food safety is a No. 1 priority for this department, for both humans and animals.”

In January, the FDA ordered a nationwide recall of peanut products linked to a Georgia plant after a salmonella outbreak killed eight people and sickened hundreds more.

"We were made aware that (Burkmann Feeds) did, in fact, receive some peanuts that were associated with the recall out of Blakely, Ga. So, there's a real likelihood that this (bird food) product may contain some of those recalled peanuts," Reardon said.

State inspectors are working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify the source of the contamination at Burkmann Feeds.

Consumers were urged to discard the contaminated bird food and avoid touching it with their hands. Anyone who handles the bird food should wash their hands thoroughly, officials said.

Dave Lank, who enjoys feeding birds behind his Durham home, said he was troubled to hear about the bird food recall.

“What a waste of all those products - because someone wanted to be dishonest and put knowingly bad products out to the public. I think it’s a real crime,” Lank said.