Tests confirm Salmonella in peanut butter

Feb 23, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Tests have confirmed a link between Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter and an outbreak involving 329 illness cases in 41 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday.

"Product testing has confirmed the outbreak strain of Salmonella [enterica serotype] Tennessee in opened jars of peanut butter, obtained from ill persons," the CDC said in a news release.

The agency said public health officials in several states have found Salmonella in Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter. "For four jars, the serotype has been confirmed as Tennessee and DNA fingerprinting has shown that the pattern is the outbreak strain," the statement said.

The outbreak was revealed Feb 14, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers not to eat any Peter Pan peanut butter bought since May 2006 or any Great Value peanut butter with a product code starting with 2111. Both classes of products are made at a ConAgra Foods plant in Sylvester, Ga. The company recalled all the products.

Dave Daigle, a CDC spokesman in Atlanta, said opened jars of peanut butter obtained from patients in New York, Oklahoma, and Iowa were found to contain Salmonella, the AP reported today.

ConAgra is advising consumers to return peanut butter to the store where they bought it for a refund or to send jar lids or labels to ConAgra.

"We are truly sorry for any harm that our peanut butter products may have caused," ConAgra Chief Executive Officer Gary Rodkin said in a Feb 22 news release. "We are committed to taking all reasonable steps to remedy the situation." The company said it has been working with the FDA to find the source of contamination.

The latest CDC statement said 60% of the cases began after Dec 1, 2006, though illness onset dates ranged from Aug 1, 2006, through Feb 2. PulseNet, the national network of labs that subtype foodborne pathogens, detected a gradual increase in S Tennessee cases last fall, the agency said. Subsequently, OutbreakNet, a CDC-coordinated network of health officials that investigates enteric disease outbreaks, then worked for several weeks to identify the food involved.

The CDC has reported no deaths in the outbreak, though 51 patients were hospitalized. However, the AP report said the family of a woman named Roberta Barkay is alleging in a lawsuit that contaminated peanut butter caused her death on Jan 30 and also sickened her husband and daughter.

See also:

Feb 22 CDC news release
http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/salmonellosis_2007/outbreak_notice.htm

Feb 22 ConAgra news release
http://media.conagrafoods.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=202310&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1008642&highlight=

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