FOOD SAFETY NEWS SCAN: Peanut butter Salmonella update, Campylobacter exposure, pet food illness tracking

Aug 2, 2011

Final case count in 2006-07 peanut butter Salmonella outbreak was 715
A report in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) on the Salmonella Tennessee outbreak linked to ConAgra peanut butter in 2006-07 puts the final case count at 715, well above the 628 cases listed in a government report published several months after the outbreak peaked. Investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several state health departments say the cases occurred in 48 states from August 2006 through July 2007. They estimate there may have been 29 outbreak cases for each lab-confirmed case, suggesting that the total may have exceeded 20,000. The episode marked the first salmonellosis outbreak associated with peanut butter in the United States. Reports at the time said the contaminated peanut butter was produced by ConAgra at a plant in Sylvester, Ga. (though the company is not named in the CID report). The authors say the outbreak probably stemmed from contamination of peanut butter at the processing plant, but exactly how that occurred is still unclear. In response to the outbreak, the company took a number of steps to eliminate and prevent contamination at the plant, and no increase in Salmonella Tennessee infections has been noted since the facility reopened in September 2007, the report says.
Aug 15 CID abstract
May 31, 2007, CIDRAP News story on the outbreak

Serum study finds repeated Campylobacter exposure in Dutch
A study of the general Dutch population found almost 100% seroprevalence of antibodies to Campylobacter, indicating repeated exposure to this common foodborne bacterium. In the September issue of Epidemiology and Infection, researchers report that they analyzed an age-stratified sample of sera obtained from 456 people using a validated enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) approach. They write, "The seroprevalence of Campylobacter [immunoglobulin G] antibodies increased with age, reaching almost 100% at age 20 years. Antibody levels steadily increased with age until young adulthood, suggesting repeated exposure to Campylobacter." They point out that most of these exposures would not have led to clinical symptoms.
September Epidemiol Infect abstract

FDA unveils new system to track pet food–related problems
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday launched a new voluntary network to help federal, state, and local partners track and investigate illnesses linked to pet food products. The system, called the Pet Event Tracking Network (PETNet) will allow real-time sharing of information about emerging illnesses or product defects, according to an FDA press release. The idea for the system came from an August 2008 meeting that also led to the establishment of the Partnership for Food Protection, a multidisciplinary expert group that helped develop the new network. The concept was developed in response to the 2007 melamine pet food recall. The chemical, used to falsely boost protein levels, was found in pet food ingredients imported from China and was linked to severe kidney damages in pets. A similar adulteration scandal in China involving milk and infant formula was linked to kidney damage in children. The new system allows government officials who are responsible for pet food regulation to enter events into the system when they flag trends or suspicious incidents that they can share with their counterparts in other jurisdictions. So far PETNet includes 200 members from four federal agencies, 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Aug 1 FDA press release

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