Saturday, August 31, 2013

Warning: Spoiled Chobani Greek Yogurt Products, Aug/Sept/Oct 2013

Have you recently bought a Chobani Greek yogurt product that didn't look, taste, or smell quite right? If so, read on.


I bought a box of Chobani Champions Tubes yogurt (Rockin' Blueberry flavor) for our kids on the night of Tuesday, August 27, 2013. It was the last box on the shelf, and I assumed the rest were gone because of a current promotional sale price. (Normally we buy the Chillin' Cherry flavor but there were none on the shelf.) The date on the box says "Sep 24-13" so the yogurt should have lasted 4 weeks from the date I bought it.

One of my kids reported after tasting the yogurt that it "made his tongue hurt." I was skeptical, but last night I saw at the same grocery store (a Vons in Southern California, the same chain as Safeway in other states) that there was supposedly a recall on the Chobani Champions Tubes products (my store carries just the two flavors of tubes that I mentioned above). I didn't check to see whether other Chobani products had been removed from the shelves, but I later found out that Chobani's entire line of yogurt products seems to be affected.

After I got home, I checked the tubes in my refrigerator and found that they all seemed swollen, some moreso than others. I tore open one puffy tube over the sink and it popped open and forcefully ejected a spray of yogurt.

(To be clear, I live right around the corner from the store, and I always put frozen or refrigerated items into my cart last, so it was only a matter of minutes between when the product left the grocer's fridge and entered my fridge. Chobani's Facebook rep says that their yogurt can safely last up to 2 hours outside of the fridge at normal temperatures. The yogurt was in my fridge for less than 3 days before we realized it was spoiled, and by that point it was still almost 4 weeks prior to the use-by date. This was clearly not a case of negligence on the part of a consumer.)

Signs of Spoilage and Symptoms

An odd, spicy or sour taste and expanded or exploding containers are signs of a product that has gone bad and has begun to ferment. Some recent buyers of Chobani products have reported them being bubbly or foamy, or having a fizzy or carbonated taste, or smelling like yeast; these are also signs of fermentation or spoiling.

And obviously, if you get sick to your stomach after eating one (including stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea), that's a strong indication that you ate a spoiled product. More than one parent has reported that their children have felt sick or vomited after eating Chobani yogurt recently.

Conflicting Information About a Recall


I'm not sure whether Chobani has informed stores about the recall, or whether my local grocery store got complaints and contacted Chobani, or whether my grocery store just pulled the affected yogurt from the shelves on its own. All I knew for sure at the time was that someone at my store had hand-written "recall" over the top of the price tags, and the shelf was empty.

It's evident that Chobani has a major nationwide problem based on the number of Facebook comments about the problem as well as comments posted at BabyCenter (I found this link by searching Google for Chobani Champions recall). Clearly it's not just an issue here in Southern California; people all around the country have had similar problems, including but not limited to Arizona, other parts of California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and even Hawaii (which obviously doesn't receive Chobani deliveries by truck from the packaging facility on the mainland). This list is primarily based on people whose posts on Chobani's Facebook page indicated where they were from, and many of them did not include that information.

The first post on BabyCenter about the disappearance of Chobani Champions Tubes from store shelves was written on August 22, 2013, five days before I bought my package, and the commenter said that she/he had been to "3 grocery stores in the past week and they are completely gone."

Presumably, then, I bought my affected package more than a week after some stores had already been aware of the problem and pulled these products from their shelves. Thus it would seem that there wasn't very quick communication from Chobani to every chain or store that carries affected products. (I suppose it's possible that Chobani contacted the chains but some stores didn't get the message from their corporate headquarters for a while.)

Based on several comments on Chobani's Facebook page, it's clear that Chobani Champions Tubes is not the only product with a problem. One commenter mentioned Key Lime 2% (although the official Chobani product page indicates that a key lime flavor, Key Lime Crumble, is only available in the Chobani Flip product line). Another commenter posted a picture of a store label indicating an item recall for a Flip product. Yet another person said it happened with Orange Vanilla flavor, which according to the product page is a Chobani Champions flavor that comes in a cup (as opposed to Champions Tubes). Someone else said they had a problem with the Coffee with Dark Chocolate Chips flavor, which is in the Chobani Bite product line. Essentially all Chobani products seem to be affected.

Worse yet, I couldn't find any information on Chobani's site about a recall, which I find very concerning.

It's clear that Chobani knows about the problem because of all the responses from whoever manages Chobani's Facebook page. However, the Facebook representative wrote yesterday that "we fully stand behind everything we make and assure you we have not issued a recall." (emphasis mine)

It's strange that the Chobani representative stated that there is no product recall. That comment from Chobani was written in reply to a post by someone who said, "My husband works at a convenience store that just had notification that Chobani [yogurt] was to be tossed if the exp date was between 9/11-10/7". Between that and the "recall" signs in my local grocery store, there's conflicing information about whether or not there has actually been a recall. For now, watch out for any expiration dates in September or October 2013.

Other comments from Chobani's Facebook representative claim that the cups in question must have been exposed to a temperature above 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) for an extended period of time.

How to Contact Chobani & File an FDA Consumer Complaint

Chobani is simply directing those who post about these problems on the Chobani Facebook page to contact Chobani via their site. They're not linking to an HTTPS encrypted page, but given that the form may contain private information such as your address and phone number, you should fill out the HTTPS version of the form:

https://www.chobani.com/who-we-are/contact/

You can alternatively e-mail Chobani at care@chobani.com or call 1-877-847-6181.

Notably, that phone number was removed from their contact page sometime after Google cached it on August 23. The company also removed their General & Customer Sevices Inquiries e-mail address, contact@chobani.com, and their Blogger Inquiries address, blogger@chobani.com, leaving only their Media Inquiries and Marketing/Advertising Inquiries e-mail addresses on the site. The "care" e-mail address came from Chobani's Facebook representative.

Within hours of e-mailing the company, I received a generic e-mail stating that I would soon receive "replacement product coupons" in the mail so we can "quickly get back to spooning your favorite flavors" (in spite of the fact that I made it clear that we were only interested in Chillin' Cherry Tubes, which are not products that are "spooned").

Given Chobani's unwillingness to publicly acknowledge that there is a widespread, nationwide problem or issue a public recall, it seems that consumers should also contact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to report the safety concern about spoiled Chobani products.

The FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinators' phone numbers vary by state, so you can look up the appropriate phone number here:

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/ReportaProblem/ConsumerComplaintCoordinators/default.htm

Meanwhile, a Facebook commenter named Nick Conley claims that he founded a startup company that "does 16S DNA bacterial sequencing using Illumina's MiSeq platform" and that he planned to "identify all the species growing in it" by 2 weeks from yesterday. To be notified of the results, one can leave a Facebook comment on Nick Conley's post so Facebook will notify you when someone posts additional comments; presumably Nick will add a comment when the results are in.

Update, September 3, 2013

Chobani posted on its blog around the same time I published this article. When I posted a link to my article on their Facebook wall, the Chobani rep replied claiming, "While we have not issued a recall, we are in the process of replacing product that does not meet our quality standards at retailers across the country."

In other words, there is in fact a recall but Chobani is refusing to call it that.

The Chobani blog confirmed the September 11, 2013 through October 7, 2013 dates that a Facebook commenter had previously mentioned.

On September 3rd at 6 PM, Chobani updated its blog post with the following statement:
Our thorough investigation has identified a type of mold commonly found in the dairy environment. The product in question is less than 5% of our production and is limited to cups produced at our Idaho facility, which accounts for only one third of our production capacity.
While I'm glad that Chobani has publicly stated that mold is the culprit, it would be nice if Chobani would disclose what kind of mold so consumers can research it further on their own.

I find it very hard to believe that only 5% of Chobani's production is affected, especially given the huge volume of customer complaints on the Chobani Facebook page (with relatively few people claiming to have had no problems whatsoever), the significant percentage of products coming out of the affected Idaho facility (one third of all production), and the widespread geographic distribution of affected products.

Also, the company has once again used a misleading word, "cups," to describe affected products, ignoring the fact that its tubes are also affected. This misinformation is especially disappointing because children are the main target audience for tube yogurt products.

* * *

Up until now I've been updating this article to add new U.S. states whenever a commenter has requested it, but I'll probably slow down on that. See the comments below which may contain additional locations. I may update this article again if Chobani or Nick Conley have anything else interesting to say about the situation.

Also, a note for commenters: comment moderation is enabled, which means your comment won't appear immediately. I manually review and approve comments to prevent spam.

About the Author

Normally I'm not very interested in product recalls and the like, but given that this is a health issue that directly affected my children—and given that Chobani was not informing its customers of the extent of the problem—I felt that this was worth writing about.  I normally write about computer security and Apple news. You can follow me on Twitter, , and other social networks.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Are Twitter users adopting "Ћ" as replacement for "the"?

A few weeks ago, The Verge had a headline that posed an interesting question:

"If 'and' is &, why can't 'the' be Ћ?"

The article got a respectable amount of buzz, with more than 1,200 likes on Facebook, 700 tweets, 300 +1s, and 300 comments.

Much has already been said about the Ћ symbol in both the article itself and the reader comments, but I was curious to see what the level of adoption is on Twitter.

After all, with a limit of 140 characters per tweet, if there's any place where saving two characters is likely to be of interest to anyone, it's Twitter.

I used Twitter's advanced search functions to filter out a lot of unrelated tweets (especially tweets in other languages that use the Cyrillic Ћ character) as well as the majority of comments about the phenomenon of using the Ћ symbol in this way.* Basically, my goal was to only see tweets where the author tried to use Ћ as though it was a common and natural abbreviation.

The phenomenon of using Ћ instead of "the" seems to have begun on Twitter on February 10, 2013. (At the very least, it was extremely uncommon before then, and/or perhaps Twitter's language filter doesn't work as well for tweets older than that.)


From February 10 until April 15, the only people using Ћ to mean "the" were from Melbourne, the Autralian metropolis that happens to be the hometown of Paul Mathis, the main proponent of the use of Ћ.

On April 15, there was a minor breakthrough: the first tweet that replaced "the" with Ћ from someone outside of Melbourne. I say "minor breakthrough" because that Twitter user is from Frankston, less than an hour's drive south of Melbourne.


The first uses of Ћ to mean "the" by non-Australian Twitter users came on July 5, when the article from The Verge was published. (This article was written by a Londoner, by the way, who received a tip from a Melburnian, whose source was evidently an article written the same day by another Melburnian for an Aussie site, The Age.)

Naturally, one might assume that the usage of Ћ might see a general rise until the novelty wears off. I'm unsure of exactly how long that period of time might be.

More than a week after the articles from The Age and The Verge, a small number of Twitter users from outside Australia had at least once used the symbol casually as though it were commonplace. These users were from Ireland, Saudia Arabia, South Korea, the United States of America, England, Germany, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and India. (Remember that my search was filtered for English language tweets, which may limit the countries in this list.)

Lest anyone misinterpret this to mean that there's widespread adoption of Ћ across the globe, in many cases there were only one or two Twitter users from each country who had used the Ћ symbol, and many of them used it a mere one or two times. Only a very small number of non-Australians (around 15 or so) seem to be using Ћ frequently in their tweets over the past week. The number of Australians who seem to have been using Ћ frequently during the same time period is about one-third as many.

Given that only 20 people or so are regularly using Ћ in lieu of "the" on Twitter, it seems doubtful that any physical keyboard (as opposed to on-screen keyboard) manufacturers will soon be adding Ћ keys, as Mathis indicated he would be pleased to see happen.

Mathis did, however, acknowledge in an interview that it could perhaps take "500 years" before his symbol finally catches on, at which time he said people might marvel that there once was a time when people didn't use Ћ.

Five hundred years, eh?  Conveniently, Mathis and everyone else now living will be long dead and buried by the year 2513. I'd venture to guess that if Ћ hasn't caught on by then, nobody will care, let alone notice.

Update, 24 May 2014: I just happened upon the Wikipedia article for the Deseret alphabet, "a phonemic English spelling reform developed in the mid-19th century by the board of regents of the University of Deseret (later the University of Utah) under the direction of Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." This Mormon-developed alphabet also included a single-character variant of the word "the": 𐐜 or 𐑄 (as seen in the inscription across the top of this 1860 coin, "Holiness to the Lord").

Update, 25 May 2014: See also this interesting Twitter conversation I had with Paul Mathis, the person who came up with the idea of using the Ћ symbol as an alternative for the word "the." In our discussion, I asked him for his opinions about the Deseret alphabet character (which, by the way, is called "thee") and the use of the single letter t to represent "the" (similar to the Spanish use of q as an abbreviated form of que or qué).

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!


*A note regarding this blog post: My investigation into the use of Ћ on Twitter was neither scientific nor comprehensive. I'm sure someone will complain about the methodology I used to filter tweets. Nevertheless, I think it's pretty reasonable to conclude that adoption of Ћ on Twitter is presently very low. It stands to reason that if it hasn't garnered much support on Twitter, it probably hasn't elsewhere, either.

The exact query string I used was as follows:

"Ћ " since:2012-12-31 -symbol -mathis -paulmathismelb -language -keyboard -keyboards -char -character -letter -typing -the -Ћ∂ª lang:en

Here's a link to that query; you can optionally click on "All" to load more tweets than the default "Top" tweets.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A conversation with Steve Jobs: a dream

I just awoke from a dream. In it, I met and had a conversation with Steve Jobs shortly before his death.

Steve and I met in a casual setting. We encountered each other by chance in an Apple Store. Of course, in reality our conversation would have probably been cut short as he was mobbed by hordes of adoring fans. But somehow, this didn't happen.

In my dream, Steve was walking through the store, and suddenly he paused by a video or a still image of the Safari logo on the wall. He suddenly stopped and asked nobody in particular though facing the direction of my friend and me, "What browser do you use?" Somehow I sensed that he was talking about mobile browsers, so I answered, "Safari, of course." At this point in my dream, the person I was with at the store faded into the background as Steve began asking me questions.

"Why?" he asked aloud. He wanted to know why I used Safari on the go rather than any other browser. I explained to him that it simply offered the best browsing experience, the same rich experience as the desktop; you get to see the whole Web page, wherever you are, without being dumped to an awful "mobile-friendly" version of a site. I explained how my relative youth and good eyesight influenced my desire to see the actual site scaled down on a Retina display. Oddly, I think at this point we walked several feet over to some sort of tall apparatus in the store and Steve began testing my eyes while we continued our conversation. (Hey, dreams aren't always terribly realistic.) I discussed how people of my parents' generation (roughly the same as Jobs' but a little older) may have a different opinion about reading text so small on such a small screen, in spite of the fine resolution of the iPhone. I explained that I had been thinking about a solution to the problem. Steve smirked a bit as I explained that obviously they couldn't use a garish round magnifying glass to see the screen better, and I told him that I had been pondering a solution, including the possibility of a seamless, smooth, flat, magnifying layer with tapered edges that could be placed on top of the iPhone's display surface (in reality, I had never imagined such a thing prior to my dream).

Steve pondered my responses and continued his inquisition. I reveled in the opportunity to have my brain picked by the master. I secretly wondered for a moment if this would lead me to a job in the creative inner circle at Apple. The conversation then shifted to what type of phone my mother uses. I began to tell him about how I had tried to convince my mom to buy an iPhone but she hadn't yet. The wheels in his head were turning. Steve's brilliant mind was trying to figure out what could be done—what he could do—to capture the imagination of those who didn't yet use an iPhone. His inner passion was to bring the world to nirvana though embracing great technology. "What does she use?" he inquired. "Some stupid flip-phone, a Samsung I think. Just some horrible dumbphone." I explained that I had shown her several of my iPhone's features that I believed she would enjoy using, but that every time I did she always cut me off and said that was enough. (This is not reality, by the way. My mom actually does want an iPhone and is considering getting one.) I expressed my incredulity about her not comprehending that an iPhone would simplify her life, that she would never again have to take horribly grainy pictures on her low-res dumbphone camera, that she would be able to sync all her photos to her iPhoto library and check her e-mail in Mail while on the go. I then explained that she did, however, have an iPad, and that she uses it for Mail—but mostly she just uses it to play Words With Friends with her retired friends and current coworkers (this is reality).

At some point as the conversation continued, we were far from the Apple Store, lying on our backs in a grassy field staring up at the sky while discussing how to bring the world to technological enlightenment. Somehow, he and I both knew that his time remaining on the earth was short. We shared this bit of knowledge through an unspoken connection between us, and others who had been near us in the Apple Store seemed unaware of this most unfortunate fact. But for the most part, Steve seemed at peace with it. He was just trying to make the most out of the little time he had left. Perhaps this all took place after he resigned as CEO. But somehow, I knew, and he knew that I knew.

I awoke. This, of course, was all just a dream. A fantasy. But I was grateful to have had the opportunity to speak with Steve Jobs before his death about the thing he was most passionate about in life: making the world a better place through great technology.


Although I don't normally have cool dreams like this, you can follow me and my passion for technology and other things on Twitter and .

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Netflix Doesn't Care About You

If you're a current Netflix customer with a DVD or Blu-ray plan and you also stream movies with Watch Instantly, Netflix has a clear message for you: We're lowering our prices (which really means we're jacking them up sky-high, but you're stupid enough to believe us, right?), and if you don't like it, buzz off; we don't really even care about you, anyway.

Let me provide some context. Prior to today, Netflix already offered a $7.99/month plan for streaming only (or "Watch Instantly" in Netflix parlance). If you wanted to rent DVDs by mail, you paid $9.99/month and you also got streaming as a bonus (originally there was no streaming-only plan, and streaming was first introduced as a bonus for DVD customers). If you wanted the option to get Blu-ray discs instead of DVDs for titles where Blu-ray was available, you paid an additional $2/month.

Today Netflix announced that they're now offering a DVD-only plan for $7.99/month, a totally new option. Good for them; everyone should be happy, right? Well unfortunately that's not the only change Netflix made. The company also announced that it will be increasing the cost of the DVD plus streaming plan from the current $9.99/month to $15.98/month ($7.99 + $7.99; you pay full price for both the DVD and streaming plans, with no discount for bundling the two).

So basically, you get absolutely no improvement to your service whatsoever, but you now have to pay 60% more (an additional $6 more per month, which translates into $72 more per year) than you were paying before, and you get nothing new in return.

Remember how I said you could pay an additional $2 more per month on top of the old $9.99 plan to get Blu-ray discs when available? Netflix didn't say anything in their announcement about Blu-ray, but logging into https://www.netflix.com/SubscriptionChange confirms that there will still be an additional $2/month Blu-ray fee on top of the new $15.98/month plan. This means that if I decided to go with the new Blu-ray and streaming plan (which Netflix intends to opt me into on September 1st), I would go from paying $11.99/month to $17.98/month (over $215/year). Notably, more than half of what's in my disc queue right now is only available on DVD, not Blu-ray.

So why am I bothering to write a big ol' rant about all this? Netflix is a business, and it has the right to change its pricing structure and plans as it sees fit. I just find it extremely disappointing that a company that has historically been an innovator and leader in movie rentals is taking a major turn in the wrong direction with this egregious price hike (while simultaneously claiming to be "offering our lowest prices ever" in typical doublespeak PR-spin fashion). Maybe on some level this move could benefit the company, since Netflix will likely increase its revenue even if a significant percentage of current DVD or Blu-ray customers were to abandon Netflix completely or switch to one of the $7.99 plans. On the other hand, it's a fact that Netflix is going to lose loyal customers over this, and it's going to damage the company's perception amongst potential, current, and soon-to-be former customers.

If you're frustrated with Netflix over this boneheaded move, don't worry; there are plenty of options available to you. I'm not aware of other companies that offer a subscription plan that includes both discs and non-disc rentals for one flat rate, but you can easily mix and match from various services if you're unwilling or unable to pay Netflix's burdensome new prices.

If you want streaming or downloadable rentals:
  • Hulu (hulu.com) offers streaming of many TV shows and movies for free (with advertisements)
  • Hulu Plus costs $7.99/month and offers access to more content in higher definition on more devices, and although it unfortunately doesn't preclude you from advertisements, it may be a better fit for you than Netflix if you're more interested in TV shows than movies
  • Amazon Instant Video (amazon.com/video) currently has about 6,000 videos (movies and TV episodes) for individual rental or purchase, all of which can be viewed at no additional charge for Amazon Prime members (Amazon Prime gives you free two-day shipping on all Amazon-fulfilled orders for a flat rate of $79/year, which breaks down to about $6.58/month)
  • Apple's iTunes Store (apple.com/itunes) has lots of movies and TV shows for individual rental or purchase (no monthly subscription option is available)
  • Blockbuster (blockbuster.com) offers individual streaming rentals (some of which are free), but their software is only compatible with Windows and their device support is rather limited
  • You can downgrade your Netflix plan to $7.99/month for unlimited streaming only (https://www.netflix.com/SubscriptionChange)
If you want DVD or Blu-ray rentals:
  • Redbox (redbox.com) is a really inexpensive option (typically $1 or $1.50 per DVD/Blu-ray, which you rent from a local kiosk), but their selection is very limited and mostly consists of popular new releases plus a few video games
  • You can try your local video rental store for items that Redbox doesn't stock (search your local phone directory or try searching bing.com/local or maps.google.com for the phrase 'video rental near' followed by your city and state)
  • Blockbuster also has a rent by mail plan for $11.99/month (with Blu-ray and video game rentals included) which allows up to 5 trade-ins per month at local Blockbuster stores (which is great if you still have a Blockbuster store in your area) and claims to get some new releases up to 28 days before Netflix and Redbox
  • You can downgrade your Netflix plan to $7.99/month for DVDs only, or $9.99/month with Blu-rays included (https://www.netflix.com/SubscriptionChange)

Do you know of any other good Netflix alternatives? Please leave a comment.

As for my family, we're not the least bit interested in spending over $215/year on movie rentals, and we're strongly considering putting our account on hold on August 30th for 90 days (https://www.netflix.com/AccountHold) to give Netflix a chance to reconsider its pricing structure, after which we'll probably cancel our membership. Frankly, this could be a good opportunity for Netflix customers to consider cutting out some distractions in their lives to focus on more important things.