Salmonella outbreak firmly linked to Georgia facility

Jan 20, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – Salmonella found in an unopened container of peanut butter in Connecticut has been genetically matched to the nationwide disease outbreak, confirming that it stems from a Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) facility in Georgia, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced late yesterday.

Minnesota officials had previously tied Salmonella found in some PCA-made peanut butter to the outbreak, but the container had been opened, leaving the possibility of cross-contamination. The finding of the outbreak strain in an unopened container "has now led FDA to confirm that the source of this outbreak is peanut butter and peanut paste produced by PCA at its Blakely, Ga., processing plant," the FDA said in an update on the investigation.

PCA sells peanut butter to food processors and institutions such as schools, nursing homes, and hospitals, but does not sell it directly to consumers. However, the outbreak has led to a growing list of recalls of products containing peanut butter or peanut paste made by PCA, such as sandwich crackers, cookies, and ice cream. Major national brands of peanut butter sold in jars are not affected by the recalls, according to the FDA.

The FDA is advising consumers to check its searchable online list of products and brands associated with the PCA recall (see link below) to find out if commercially made products containing peanut butter or peanut paste are subject to recall. If consumers can't find the product on the FDA list, they should consider calling the toll-free number listed on the product package or check the company's Web site, the FDA said.

Even though national peanut butter brands appear to be safe, the FDA is advising consumers not to eat peanut butter, commercial products containing peanut butter or paste, or institutionally served peanut butter if they can't determine whether those items contain PCA peanut butter or paste.

At least 10 companies making a wide range of products with peanut butter or peanut paste have issued recall press releases that have been posted on the FDA Web site. Some companies have issued recalls that have not yet been listed by the FDA. For example, Cub Foods, a division of Supervalu Co., based in Eden Prairie, Minn., today recalled five peanut butter cookie products sold in Minnesota and Iowa because they may contain peanut butter made by PCA, though there were no reports of illness.

The Salmonella outbreak case count has risen to 485 in 43 states and Canada, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update posted late today. As reported previously, about 23% of patients were hospitalized, and the illness was a possible factor in six deaths. The latest illness onset date was Jan 9.

In Connecticut, the outbreak strain of Salmonella was found in an intact 5-pound container of King Nut peanut butter at a distributor in West Haven, the state Department of Consumer Protection reported in a news release today. King Nut Cos. distributes peanut butter made by PCA.

According to the news release, FDA official Roberta F. Wagner told Connecticut officials, "Thus far, Connecticut's King Nut peanut butter sample is the only intact sample that has been found with a PFGE [pulsed-field gel electrophoresis pattern] that matches the outbreak strain as determined by clinical sample analysis."

PCA has recalled all peanut butter and peanut paste produced at the Blakely facility since Jul 1, 2008. The products were distributed to institutions, food services, and companies in 24 states, Canada, Korea, and Haiti, according to the CDC. The FDA said the company has stopped production at the plant as the outbreak investigation continues.

See also:

FDA update
http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html#update

FDA's searchable list of recalled products
http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm

CDC outbreak update
http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium/

Connecticut news release on findings linking King Nut peanut butter to outbreak
http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?Q=432242&A=3659

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