Benny T’s Vesta Dry Hot Sauce recalled over undeclared wheat

A North Carolina-based food company is recalling jars of what it calls dry hot sauces after failing to declare on labels that wheat is present in the product — an omission the company acknowledges could cause a “serious or life-threatening allergic reaction” to those with an allergy or severe sensitivity to wheat.

Vesta Fiery Gourmet Foods of Raleigh, N.C., is voluntarily recalling its products, which are sold under the brand name Benny T’s, after being notified by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that the label on its 1½-ounce jars does not state that the flour used is a wheat flour, according to a company announcement released by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.

The chile-pepper-based toppings, which the company markets as dry hot sauces, being recalled are: Benny T’s Vesta Dry Hot Sauce Ghost, Benny T’s Vesta Dry Hot Sauce Hot, Benny T’s Vesta Dry Hot Sauce Reaper, Benny T’s Vesta Dry Hot Sauce Scorpion and Benny T’s Vesta Dry Hot Sauce Very Hot, the statement said, adding that no illnesses have been reported to date.

“Up until recently we were not aware, nor told by inspectors, that wheat as an allergen was required to be listed on our packaging,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. “Once we were made aware of the issue in late December 2023, we have worked closely with state and federal officials to correct the label.”

It added that the labeling has been fixed on future labels, and once they are approved, the company will be able to continue fulfilling orders.

Food allergies are rising rapidly particularly among young Americans, The Washington Post s nationwide between Oct. 1 and Jan. 4. Products with use-by dates through December 2024 are affected, the announcement said. The FDA urged those who purchased the products not to consume them and to contact the company if they have questions.

Sauces and spices are among the foods and products listed by the nonprofit Food Allergy Research & Education as sometimes containing unexpected sources of wheat. Other items listed include soups, salad dressings and hot dogs.

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According to the FDA, wheat is among the nine foods or food groups that account for the most serious allergic reactions in the country. Other major allergens affecting millions of Americans include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans and sesame.

The FDA adds that companies are legally required to declare any major food allergens on their labels — for example, by listing them after the name of the ingredient, such as “flour (wheat).”

“Symptoms of food allergies typically appear from within a few minutes to a few hours after a person has eaten the food,” FDA guidance states, listing hives, flushed skin, vomiting and swelling of the throat among the symptoms of allergic reactions.

When a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction takes place, it is called anaphylaxis.

The FDA recommends carefully reading food labels before consuming products and reporting any labeling concerns to the agency if there is a suspected reaction to an FDA-regulated food or food product.

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Food allergies are rising rapidly, particularly among young Americans, The Washington Post reported in September. Analyses found that Black Americans are more likely to have food allergies than White Americans, with the one exception being the wheat allergy — which is more common among White people.

A wheat allergy can manifest similarly to other food allergies and is not to be confused with celiac disease, an autoimmune condition, or other gluten intolerance.

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