Fungus in yogurt represents a possible threat to consumers

Harold Mandel's picture
Yogurt and milk

Contamination of food can cause very serious illnesses. Food poisoning can hit the very young and the very old particularly hard but has the capacity to cause a great deal of disability or to even be life threatening for anyone. Yogurt has surfaced as being a risk factor for fungal infection which represents a serious risk to the consumer.

Impact of fungi as a food-borne pathogen has been largely underestimated

Food-borne pathogens represent ongoing problems with new pathogens always emerging. The potential impact of fungi as a food-borne pathogen has been largely underestimated reported mBio. There was a recent outbreak of illness associated with commercial yogurts contaminated with Mucor circinelloides. Over 200 consumers became very ill with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Mucor circinelloides can spoil food products and can cause gastrointestinal illness


The fatal fungal infection mucormycosis is caused by Mucoralean fungi. The incidence of contamination with this fungi has been continuously increasing. In this study it was demonstrated that Mucor circinelloides can spoil food products and can cause gastrointestinal illness in consumers. This may pose a particular risk for immunocompromised patients. The report of contamination of yogurt products with Mucor circinelloides came from the U.S. FDA.

The affected yogurt was voluntarily withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer. Generally in comparison to other food-borne pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, there has been less of a focus placed on fungal pathogens. Information in the popular press generally suggests this fungal contaminant poses little or no risk to consumers. However, this research shows that it has the capacity to cause significant infections in animals.

It has been discovered that the fungus which was responsible for an outbreak of contaminated Greek yogurt last year is not harmless but is instead a strain which has the ability to cause disease reports the American Society for Microbiology in a discussion of this study.

Chobani brand Greek yogurt was associated with an outbreak of illness in 2013

People who consumed Chobani brand Greek yogurt complained of gastrointestinal (GI) problems in September 2013. The yogurt responsible for this outbreak of illness was manufactured in the company’s Idaho plant. The firm issued a quick recall of this yogurt. At the time of the recall it was thought the fungal contaminant Murcor circinelloides only posed a potential danger to immunocompromised people. However, researchers began to question the fungus and its capacity to cause harm in healthy complaints of severe GI discomfort continued from otherwise healthy customers.

The outbreak of food poisoning from yogurt contaminated with fungus has increased our awareness in dealing with this problem. Clinicians and patients alike should remain aware that bacteria, viruses, and parasites are not the only food-borne pathogens. Fungal pathogens are also a source of food poisoning. Vigilance must be maintained in dealing with the potential threat of food poisoning from fungi.