Smokeless Tobacco Products Recalled As Sharp Metal Fragments Are Found Inside

U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company has voluntarily recalled some smokeless tobacco products after sharp metal objects have been found in selected cans.

The products — namely certain lots of 14 Copenhagen and Skoal varieties — were manufactured in its Franklin Park, Illinois facility and distributed nationally. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had been notified as well.

Recall Information

The issue erupted when eight customers complained of foreign metal fragments, including sharp metal objects, in their purchased cans. Those complaints were received from Texas, Indiana, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Ohio.

The voluntary recall does not cover Copenhagen Snuff Custom, Skoal Long Cut Custom Straight, and Skoal Snus Original, the company recall announcement stated.

Customers who have purchased any of the recalled varieties are urged to not open or use it anymore, and instead contact the company at 1-866-201-9136 to return it for a full refund. Retailers and wholesalers are also encouraged to separate the recalled products from their inventories.

Limiting Carcinogen Content In Smokeless Tobacco

Earlier this month, the FDA moved to limit levels of the carcinogen N-nitrosonornicotine (NNN) in all smokeless tobacco products distributed in the United States. In its announcement of the proposed role, FDA officials said [PDF] that they are taking the said action as NNN is a “potent carcinogenic agent” that contributes greatly to elevated cancer risks linked to using smokeless tobacco.

“[The] FDA finds that establishing a NNN limit in finished smokeless tobacco products is appropriate for the protection of the public health," noted the statement.

Under the new proposed rule, NNN’s mean level in any tobacco product batch cannot go beyond 1.0 μg/g of tobacco (dry weight) at any time through its expiry date. The proposed standard would also require labels of finished products to contain an expiration date, manufacturing code, and storage conditions if applicable.

NNN belongs to a known class of carcinogens called tobacco-specific nitrosamines, and their levels greatly vary in categories of smokeless tobacco goods, including chewing tobacco and dry snuff.

Potential Risks And Upside Of Smokeless Tobacco

The FDA foresees the proposed rule preventing about 12,700 new oral cancer cases and about 2,200 deaths from the disease in the country in the 20 years following its implementation. The agency added that during that period, about 15,200 life years would also be gained in the nation as a result.

A paper published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, however, stated that the FDA’s failure to adequately inform the American public of the relative safety of smokeless tobacco compared to cigarettes hinders the best public health outcomes.

"These consumers and potential consumers have a fundamental right (based on the principles of autonomy, health communication, and health literacy) to be well aware of the dramatic differential harms from the various products they are already or might consider using," wrote the researchers.

A study from last year painted a relatively different picture, warning that smokeless tobacco products may harbor several bacterial species that have been associated with health issues such as opportunistic infections and lung inflammation. The team of researchers said that bacteria such as Bacillus licheniformis, Bacillus pumilus, and others can pose health risks to those using smokeless tobacco products.

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