Questions and Answers About the HVP Recall
By Dr. Linda M. Katz, Interim Chief Medical Officer for the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN)
Since the hydrolyzed vegetable protein recall was announced on March 4, we have received many questions from consumers about HVP and the products that have been recalled. Here are some of the top questions that we’ve received:
- What is hydrolyzed vegetable protein?
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, also known as HVP, is a flavor enhancer that is added to many processed foods, such as snacks and snack mixes, soups and soup mixes, and frozen foods. HVP is made by processing plants like corn, soy, and wheat to change the proteins into their basic components. The end result is a paste or powder that food processors add to their foods to give them a richer flavor.
- Are all foods that contain HVP being recalled?
No. The only products that are being recalled are those that contain HVP made by Basic Food Flavors on or after Sept. 17, 2009 that do not have a food processing step that would kill Salmonella or require further cooking by consumers.
The good news is that most processed foods contain very little HVP. Also, most food processors include processing steps that would kill any Salmonella present when making their products, such as heating to a high temperature or for a long period of time. These processing steps are often referred to as “kill steps,” since they kill the Salmonella. That’s why these foods aren't included in the recall, since they are not considered to present a risk.
- Has anyone gotten sick from eating the recalled food?
To date, no illnesses have been reported, even though these food products had been sold and used since September 2009. Because there have been no reports of illnesses to date, this situation is not considered a "foodborne outbreak."
The risk of becoming sick from the contaminated HVP is very low in most cases. Even so, the FDA, the CDC, and other federal and state agencies are closely monitoring the recall and reports of illnesses to prevent harm to the public.
We have compiled a comprehensive list of questions and answers about the HVP recall, which we update to address questions from consumers. If you have other questions after reading through that list, feel free to submit your questions here.
More Questions and Answers
Posted April 15, 2010
Q. What is the difference between HVP and MSG? Can you still label food 'natural' when it contains HVP?
A. HVP is made by breaking down proteins from certain foods, such as corn or wheat, into their building blocks. These building blocks are called amino acids, and one of them is called glutamic acid. Under certain conditions, glutamic acid exposed to sodium can become monosodium glutamate (MSG).
As to your question about labels... first, a little background. HVP can't be listed on food labels as "hydrolyzed vegetable protein"; it has to be listed according to the food from which the HVP was made. For example, if the HVP was made by breaking down protein from corn, it has to be listed as "hydrolyzed corn protein"; if wheat was used, the label would say "hydrolyzed wheat protein," etc. And manufacturers can't just call it "natural flavor" on the ingredient list. It has to be listed explicitly in the ingredients, as just described.
But now switch gears away from the ingredient list and consider the rest of the label on the food product. Here's where it could get a little confusing, so more explanation is in order. Food labels can make claims like "natural" or "heart healthy" on the front of the product, as long those claims are truthful and not misleading and meet any requirements that FDA has established for the use of those claims. (If manufacturers make those claims without following the requirements, they're in violation.) HVP might be among the ingredients of those kinds of foods -- so you could find a food label that says something like "Natural!" on the front and also lists some type of hydrolyzed vegetable protein among the ingredients.
Q. Does the list of ingredients list this item as HVP?
A. HVP can be listed in different ways on food labels, depending on what ingredients were used to make the HVP. For example, if it's made from wheat, it must be listed as "hydrolyzed wheat protein." If it's made from corn, it's listed as "hydrolyzed corn protein" It can't be listed as "flavor enhancer" or "hydrolyzed vegetable protein." If you're checking food labels to see if a food has HVP, it's better to check the list of recalled HVP products to find out if a company has announced a recall.
Yikes! People should just stick with the basics and try eating more natural and healthy foods... then they wouldn't have to worry about things like HVP. Just my 2 cents.
Are there any meat products in the area that I live in? Are any of these contaminated products sold at Wal Mart?
What is the difference between HVP and MSG? Can you still label food 'natural' when it contains HVP?
HVP alnog with a few hundred other food addatives Should not be allowed in the American food supply. Many of these socalled harmeless items are life threatning to a larger number of people than anyone is aware of. Sick of the coverup.
Does the list of ingedients list this item as HVP?