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U.S. Smokeless Recalls Products Due to Metal Objects


RICHMOND, Va. — U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. (USSTC) is voluntarily recalling certain smokeless tobacco products manufactured at its facility in Franklin Park, Ill. 

According to Altria Group Inc., USSTC has notified the Food and Drug Administration of the recall and is working with federal authorities on this matter.

USSTC is an operating company of Richmond-based Altria.

The recall was triggered by eight consumer complaints of foreign metal objects, including sharp metal objects, found in select cans. In each case, the object was visible to the consumer and there have been no reports of consumer injury. 

Complaints came from consumers in Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Ohio.

The select cans are from the Cope, Copenhagen, Husky, and Skoal brands. For the complete list, click here.

The products at issue were manufactured solely in USSTC's Franklin Park facility and distributed nationally, according to the company.

Wholesalers and retailers were asked to segregate the recalled products from their inventories. USSTC's sales representatives will assist wholesalers and retailers in returning the product.

"What we're trying to do is to make sure that we're doing the responsible thing with respect to the consumers. We want to make sure that we're doing everything we can so that no one is injured as a result of this particular incident," Altria President and CEO Marty Barrington said during the company's earnings call on Wednesday. 

"And also, it's important of course to protect the brand trust. So the way I think I would think about it is, of course, it's a short-term disruption, but in the long term what you want to do is to protect the consumer from harm from this and protect the trust of the brand," he added.

USSTC has two smokeless factories and the Franklin Park facility — which is the smaller of the two factories — is the only one that is affected. The Nashville factory has not been implicated and that's where most of the volume goes through, according to Barrington.

"We want to make sure that we've got this buttoned up before we ship any more product out of Franklin Park and we'll do that as soon as we feel like we have our arms around it," he explained.

The recall comes as USSTC ends with a good year. The segment grew adjusted operating company income 11 percent for the year, driven by higher pricing and volume — partially offset by higher costs and mix, Barrington said. 

USSTC grew retail share of Copenhagen and Skoal combined to 52.2 percent, the highest full-year share since Altria acquired the smokeless company, he added.

"Our portfolio strategy has enhanced Copenhagen and Skoal's competitive positioning and improved USSTC's efficiency and profitability," explained Barrington.  

In 2016, Copenhagen continued to build on its position as the smokeless segment's largest brand with the national expansion of Copenhagen Mint. It is also the fastest-growing smokeless brand, posting a 2.2 retail share point gain for the year — more than offsetting Skoal's 1.3 share point decline, according to the executive.

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