Everyday shoppers yesterday received unprecedented news as an unwelcome surprise when leading warehouse club and retailer Costco issued an urgent warning about one of their products. Costco took the drastic measure of requiring all stores to remove from the shelves one of the products they offer and warned shoppers who may have purchased it in past weeks or months that the item should not be consumed and should be returned for a full refund.

This urgent warning regarding one of their products comes as a proactive measure, not a recall. Costco has identified a potential food safety risk with the product in question and, mindful of the potential to harm their customers, decided to take the matter into their own hands rather than waiting for a public recall, which could take weeks or months to process.

What’s the product?

The item in question is Kirkland Signature’s Prepared Foods Spinach Artichoke Dip. If you have this product in your kitchen, Costco is warning all consumers not to consume it and to return it to any Costco warehouse for a full refund.

Signs of a Recurring Problem

This do-it-yourself proactive measure highlights an ongoing problem that Costco has faced: the potential risk posed by their prepared food products. It is significantly more difficult to maintain the same level of quality control with large batches of pre-made food than it is with the grain, produce, and other food items you’ll find on the shelf.

In this instance, the spinach dip was found to contain listeria, a food-borne illness-causing bacteria which is known to cause severe complications and even death to those who contract it. It’s important to note, however, that no illnesses have been reported in connection with this particular product recall.

The History of Recalls from Costco

This isn’t the first time that Costco has issued an urgent warning about a pre-made food item. In the last several years, there have been numerous incidents, recall, and warnings for many different pre-made food products that the warehouse retailer provides, including:

• Rotisserie chickens, which are factory-made in outside processing plants, have been linked to a series of recalls, including a notable 2017 recall when 97,000 pounds of the product were removed from store shelves due to a potential salmonella contamination.

• Macaroni and Cheese, which is pre-made in packaging and stored in the refrigerated section of stores, was the subject of a highly publicized nationwide recall in 2019 when a supplier’s product was found to contain plastic packaging materials in the form of small yellow plastic pieces.

• Salad mixes, sold in large packages and deli containers, were recalled in 2019 due to the potential presence of listeria.

• Chicken salads, which can sit in the deli case for several days at a time, were recalled in 2019 due to concerns of potential salmonella contamination.

The Dangers of Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illness is an often under-recognized health risk. It can lead to severe complications or even death for those who contract it.

These complications can include dehydration (loss of fluids from the body) which can be particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. In extreme cases, if left untreated, the complication can even lead to death. In the worst cases, foodborne illnesses can lead to serious chronic conditions such as listeriosis, a bacterial infection that can lead to serious brain and other organ infections.

This is why Costco’s urgent warning was so necessary. Recognizing the potential risk to their customers’ health, even if there isn’t yet an official recall in place, Costco issued the warning as soon as they identified the potential risk.

Infection Prevention Tips

Too often, food safety lapses occur due to mistakes that can be easily prevented. It’s important to keep in mind a few basic safety steps to minimize the risk of foodborne illness:

• Wash your hands —Washing your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice) is the number one step in preventing foodborne illness.

• Keep food separate —Separate raw meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other foods while in the refrigerator, while shopping, and while cooking.

• Clean countertops —Sanitize countertops, cutting boards, and plates before and after preparing food.

• Wash fruits and vegetables —Rinse fruits and vegetables before eating.

• Cook food thoroughly —Bring foods like meat, poultry, and eggs to their recommended internal temperatures, as some foodborne illness-causing bacteria can still be present after cooking.

• Refrigerate food promptly —Refrigerate food as soon as it cools, and never leave perishable foods at room temperature for more than two hours.

• Always follow package instructions —Never consume expired or spoiled food products, or those that have been stored improperly.

Costco’s proactive warning about their prepared foods spinach artichoke dip is a good reminder about the importance of food safety. While no illnesses have been reported in connection with this product recall, it’s important to remember that foodborne illness can cause serious consequences and even, in extreme cases, death.

By taking proactive measures and issuing this warning, Costco is being mindful of the potential risk posed to customers by their prepared food products. If you have purchased this item, it’s important to follow Costco’s advice and return it to any Costco warehouse for a full refund.