August 1, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
72°F
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Extra cheese, hold the E. coli, please


Totino’s recall leaves a vacuum in the cheap-frozen-pizza aisle

Ten Totino’s pizzas for $10 — it was the best deal in town, a dream for every bachelor, every working mom, every college student and every late-night pizza lover.

And then E. coli came along, ruining everything.

Food giant General Mills voluntarily recalled 5 million frozen pepperoni pizzas of the Totino’s and Jeno’s brand this week after federal authorities discovered that the pepperoni might be contaminated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 21 people in a handful of Midwestern and nearby states became infected with E. coli this week, a bacterium that causes dehydration and bloody diarrhea.

The frozen Totino’s and Jeno’s pepperoni pizzas were found to be the likely common denominator among many of those who fell ill, the CDC said on its Web site.

At grocery stores throughout Lorain County, shoppers were hard-pressed to find anything beyond a Totino’s cheese pizza in the frozen food section — virtually every Totino’s or Jeno’s pizza with a shred of meat on it was pulled off the shelves.

At Giant Eagle in Sheffield, Elyria resident Tom Kaminski was strolling the aisles with a shopping cart, fast approaching the frozen foods section.

“I’m more into the DiGiorno’s pizza nowadays,” Kaminski said. “I used to buy Totino’s. Those are good little snacks for late night — but not for every night.”

This week, they weren’t good for any night, and Kaminski wasn’t planning to buy them. 

“There are so many products out now, this is bound to happen,” said Kaminski, who retired from the former A&P grocery company before it left Lorain County in the ’70s. “Look at cereals — it used to be just the basics: Kix, Corn Flakes and Post Toasties. Now they’ve got everything, and they all have sugar in them.”

Kaminski said grocery stores have always experienced the occasional food recall, but nothing on the magnitude that today’s consumers see.

“Maybe we’d have a case of pickles where the lids weren’t on all the way, or it wasn’t packed right,” Kaminski said. “But E. coli in your pizza?”

The Totino’s pepperoni pizza rolls were not among the recalled General Mills items, and those were still being sold at grocery stores in Lorain County on Friday.

“Those are probably made in a different section of the (production) plant,” Kaminski said. “I do buy those ones, but … I’d probably be a little leery of buying those right now.”

Still, they are 10 for $10.

Contact Shawn Foucher at 653-6255 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.