FDA warns not to eat selected peanut butter products

Jan 18, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – Amid growing evidence of Salmonella contamination at a peanut processing plant in Georgia, US health officials yesterday warned consumers to avoid eating any commercially made products containing peanut butter and any peanut butter served in institutions such as schools and nursing homes until investigators learn more about which products may be tainted. The warning does not include peanut butter sold in jars directly to consumers.

Meanwhile, the case count in the widespread Salmonella outbreak rose to 474 illnesses in 43 states as of yesterday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The outbreak may have contributed to 6 deaths, and 107 case-patients were hospitalized, the agency said.

At least five companies have recalled peanut butter–containing products such as sandwich crackers, cookies, and ice cream, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported today. But the agency said there was no sign that any name-brand peanut butter sold in retail stores was contaminated.

On its Web site, the FDA has posted recall press releases from five companies that make a variety of consumer products containing peanut butter: South Bend Chocolate Co., McKee Foods Corp., Perry's Ice Cream Co., Hy-Vee Inc., and Kellogg Co. The agency previously posted notices from Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) and King Nut.

Consumers should not eat any recalled products and should discard them in a way that will prevent others from eating them, the CDC said. Until more information is available, consumers should postpone eating other commercial products that contain peanut butter but have not been recalled, officials said.

"Because identification of products subject to recall is continuing, the FDA urges consumers to postpone eating commercially-prepared or manufactured peanut butter–containing products and institutionally-served peanut butter until further information becomes available about which products may be affected," today's FDA notice said. "Efforts to identify those products are ongoing.

"At this time, there is no indication that any national name brand jars of peanut putter sold in retail stores are linked to the PCA recall," the agency added. "As the investigation continues over the weekend, and into next week, the FDA will be able to update the advice based on new sampling and distribution information."

State laboratories in Minnesota, Georgia, and Connecticut have found Salmonella in products from the PCA plant in Blakely, Ga., the FDA said in today's announcement. Minnesota officials reported earlier that they had found the outbreak strain of Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium in an open jar of King Nut peanut butter, made by PCA.

In Georgia and Connecticut, Salmonella was found in unopened 5-pound jars of King Nut peanut butter, the CDC reported in an advisory yesterday. Tests were still pending to determine if those isolates matched the outbreak strain.

Federal officials said the PCA facility makes both peanut butter and peanut paste. The peanut butter is used in institutions such as nursing homes, prisons, hospital, and schools, while the peanut paste, described as a concentrate of ground, roasted peanuts, is sold to food manufacturers for use in many products, including cakes, cookies, crackers, candies, cereal, and ice cream.

Given the latest test results, PCA expanded its recall to include all peanut butter made on or after Aug 8, 2008, and all peanut paste produced on or after Sep 26 in the Blakely plant, the FDA said. The products subject to recall are sold in amounts ranging from 5 pounds to "tanker containers," with none sold directly to consumers, the agency said.

In other details, the CDC said the outbreak involves a Salmonella strain having two closely related pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns, or DNA fingerprints.

Illness onset dates in the outbreak range from Sep 8 to Jan 2, the agency said.

See also:

CDC update

FDA notice

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