The Brazilian government has banned a batch of Mexican-made Heinz ketchup after finding traces of rodent fur in the condiment, the government announced in a statement Tuesday.
Mexican authorities have announced their own investigation into the rodent fur’s presence, ordering an inspection of the factory where the ketchup was produced, BBC reported. Heinz joined the mix as well, launching a third investigation and adding that all of its products are made to meet international standards.
Heinz said the shipment arrived in Brazil last year and that it has already been taken out of circulation. Brazilian officials confirmed the batch has been removed from all stores and cannot legally be sold, distributed, or marketed in the country.
While rodent fur poses few health concerns, a ban on its presence cannot help but highlight both the danger of infected rodents and the acceptable levels of “food defects,” as regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Bacteria that live inside the rodent, either from an infected tick, fly, or mosquito bite, can present numerous health concerns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These include Lyme disease, rat-bite fever, and plague, only to name a few. Rodents can spread diseases either directly or indirectly to humans. Avoiding these diseases often can be as easy as maintaining proper cleanliness.
“The best way to prevent a rodent infestation and contact with rodents is to remove the food sources, water, and items that provide shelter for rodents,” the CDC says.
But despite these deadly diseases, perhaps the threats people fear the most are the ones the FDA says do no harm. Because farming certain products would be impossible without minimum guidelines for food defects, the FDA sets standards — called action levels — for certain animal remnants, be they fecal matter, anatomy, or bacteria. Chocolate, for instance, has an action level of “60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when 6 100-gram subsamples are examined” — meaning an average of 59 insect fragments are acceptable for consumption.
Tomato ketchup has an action level of 55 percent or greater mold count for each six subsamples. No action level exists for rodent fur in tomato ketchup, however.