Salmonella cases jump to 370 in 42 states

Feb 28, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The number of people sickened in a nationwide Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter grew by 41, to a total of 370 in 42 states, since the last update a week ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced yesterday.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised consumers not to eat any Peter Pan peanut butter produced since May 2006 or any Great Value brand peanut butter with a product code on the lid that begins with 2111. Both products are made at the same ConAgra plant in Sylvester, Ga., and have been linked to the Salmonella enterica outbreak, which began in August, according to the CDC and FDA. The agencies announced the outbreak and voluntary product recall on Feb 14.

Two closely related DNA fingerprints of S enterica serovar Tennessee have been associated with the outbreak, and the organism has been found in nine jars of peanut butter, the CDC said in a press release yesterday.

S enterica typically causes fever and nonbloody diarrhea that resolves in a week. Of 294 patients for whom clinical information is available, 60 (20%) have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. Illness onset dates, known for 256 patients, ranged from Aug. 1, 2006, to Feb. 16, according to the CDC. Sixty-two percent of the illnesses began after Dec 1.

FDA officials and ConAgra are investigating the peanut butter production process to determine how the produce may have become contaminated, the CDC said.

Past Salmonella episodes involving peanut butter include a 1996 Australian outbreak that sickened 15 people and a 1994-95 outbreak in Israel and Wales that was traced to contaminated peanut-butter–coated snacks and affected about 2,200 people, mostly children.

The peanut butter subject to the current recall was sold in more than 60 other countries on three other continents as well as islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

Tainted spinach traced to one field
In other food safety news, California officials said yesterday that they have traced last year’s spinach-linked Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak to a 50-acre plot in San Benito County, Calif., according to a report in the Monterey Herald.

The new information was revealed during a hearing before members of California’s Senate and Assembly agriculture committees, the Herald reported. FDA and state investigators had previously said that the E coli source had been traced to either Monterey County or San Benito County.

However, state officials declined to identify the specific farm, saying they would share that information when they release their final report with the FDA in coming weeks, the Herald said.

Jeff Farrar, chief of the state’s Food and Drug Branch, told legislators the involved farm is in the second year of a 3-year transition from conventional to organic farming and is no longer growing produce, the Herald reported

Local agricultural consultant John Inman told the Herald the location of the farm isn’t the central issue. “As an industry, we’re got to make sure this doesn’t happen again. That’s the issue as I see it,” he said.

Three high-profile E coli outbreaks in recent months were clearly or possibly linked to fresh produce. The outbreak traced to fresh spinach sickened more than 200 people in August and September, and lettuce was suspected in separate outbreaks linked to Taco Bell and Taco John's restaurants later in the fall.

See also:

CDC press release

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