Strange Recall: How Do Golf Balls Get into Hash Browns?

golf balls on grass
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A bizarre and unwanted ingredient is prompting a recall of several frozen hash-brown products: The hash browns may contain pieces of golf balls.

On Friday, frozen-food maker McCain Foods USA issued a voluntary recall of two hash-brown products because they may be contaminated with "extraneous golf ball materials," the company said in a statement. The golf ball pieces in these products could pose a choking hazard or cause injuries to the mouth if consumed, the company warned.

The recalled products are Roundy’s Brand, 2 lb. Bag of Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns and Harris Teeter Brand, 2 lb. Bag of Frozen Southern Style Hash Browns. The products were manufactured on Jan. 19, 2017, and are labeled with the production code B170119, the company said.  [9 Disgusting Things That the FDA Allows in Your Food]

But how exactly do golf balls get into hash browns? According to the company, the golf balls may have been "inadvertently harvested" with the potatoes used to make the recalled products.

Just a few weeks ago, a salad product from Fresh Express was recalled because of a different unwanted ingredient: A bat that was found in a single packaged salad.

Ben Chapman, a food-safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University, told Live Science in an April 10 interview that large food companies will use mechanical harvesters to pick their produce products. And it's possible for foreign objects — such as a bat or golf balls — to be picked up during this process.

Manufacturers also use a number of methods to prevent foreign materials from ending up in their products, such as metal detectors, filters, magnets, optical sorting equipment and visual inspection, according to Food Quality & Safety magazine. Chapman said it's a good idea for companies to review their quality-control process to determine what went wrong after events of this kind.

McCain Foods said it is working with the Food and Drug Administration, and with the supermarkets that sold the products, to ensure all the recalled products are removed from stores.

So far, there have been no reports of injuries tied to the recalled products. But consumers who bought these hash browns should not eat them, the company said. Instead, they should throw the product away or return it to the store where they bought it, the statement said.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.