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Recalled Milk Prompts Vons Plant Closing : Health: State and company officials say that the milk is safe but that it smells and tastes funny. This is Vons’ second recall this month.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vons Cos. has closed one of its dairy plants temporarily to determine why the South Los Angeles factory is producing milk with an odd flavor or odor. The discovery prompted the second milk recall this month at Southern California’s largest supermarket chain.

But the Arcadia-based company and state officials emphasized Wednesday that the recalled milk, in containers dated June 9, is safe.

“We have no reports of illnesses,” Vons spokeswoman Vickie Sanders said. “It’s simply a matter of odor or flavor. . . . It’s just a precautionary measure.”

Said Jan Wessell of the State Department of Food and Agriculture: “This is not a public health concern. It has to do with what they expect their product to deliver on quality.”

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Vons announced the voluntary recall late Tuesday night of its Jerseymaid and Westwood brands of homogenized and nonfat milk in quart, half-gallon and gallon sizes from all 328 Vons, Pavilions and Tianguis markets in Southern California and Las Vegas.

Sanders said the company believes its stores sold only a small amount of nonfat milk, which sat in the back of some stores’ cooler shelves for about four hours Tuesday afternoon. Vons later determined that the homogenized milk dated June 9 never reached store shelves, she said.

Vons employees and a four-member team from the state Department of Food and Agriculture are examining equipment and machinery at the dairy processing plant on Boxford Avenue to find the cause of the “odor and/or off-flavor” of the milk. The same factory produced the nonfat milk that was recalled May 10. Vons operates another milk processing plant on Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles.

The two milk recalls are unrelated, Sanders said.

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The previous batch of bad milk, which gave about 100 people nausea and diarrhea, had abnormal levels of bacteria in cartons dated May 13 and 14. State officials blamed a malfunctioning cleaning system. Vons disputed that, but said Wednesday the cause had not yet been determined.

Vons’ stock closed unchanged at $21.875 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Sanders declined to say how many gallons of milk were involved in either recall, but acknowledged that the recalls “certainly” were costly for Vons.

“It’s an expense we willingly bear,” she added.

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The latest milk problem was discovered during taste tests about six hours after the milk left the factory. Vons’ dairy specialists have years of training and sensitive palates, Sanders said. “They can tell. . .if a cow was fed grain or grass,” she said.

Vons has “acted very responsibly,” Wessell said. “We didn’t require them to do this.”


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