The Food and Drug Administration yesterday announced a potentially massive recall of foods made with a commonly used food additive that may be contaminated with salmonella.

The additive, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or HVP, is used in thousands of foods but so far has not been linked to any illness and currently presents a low risk to consumers, FDA officials said.

But the agency isn't taking any chances. It has asked food producers to check inventories for products that used recalled lots of HVP and has established a searchable consumer database for what it predicted would be a growing list of recalled foods.

Only a few specific brands of chip dip, salad dressing, soup mixes and other foods have been recalled since the contamination was discovered last month, but "we expect this to get larger over the next several days to several weeks," said Jeff Farrar, FDA associate commissioner of food safety.

The tainted HVP was made at a plant run by Basic Food Flavors Inc. of Las Vegas and was discovered when a company customer tested a batch of the additive.

FDA inspectors subsequently found salmonella bacteria on plant equipment. Basic Food then announced a recall of all paste and powdered versions of HVP made since Sept. 17, 2009. Company president Kanu Patel didn't return a call seeking comment.

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Using the strain's genetic fingerprint, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that it has not caused illness so far.

Salmonella causes infections with diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. Healthy people generally recover without treatment, but salmonella can kill the very young, the elderly and people with weak immune systems.