Salmonella in Peanut Butter Linked to Processing Plant
03 / 02 / 2007
(HealthDay News) — U.S. health officials on Thursday confirmed finding salmonella in samples taken from the Georgia processing plant linked to contaminated Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, inspections of ConAgra’s plant in Sylvester uncovered the same strain of salmonella found in jars of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter responsible for 370 cases of salmonella poisoning in 42 states. “All we know is that we’ve got salmonella bacteria that we found in the environment in the facility that matched the same strain that we found in patients that the states found in jars of peanut butter,” said Dr. David Acheson, the FDA’s Director of the Food Safety and Security Staff in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “The most likely scenario is that the peanut butter became contaminated sometime during the production, between the roasting process and putting the product in a jar,” Acheson added. The way the bacteria entered the plant will probably never be known, Acheson said. “How it got into the environment we’ll never know,” he said. “It may have come in on somebody’s feet; it’s possible there was somebody in the plant who was sick and didn’t know it. But that’s pure speculation.”
Although the specific lots of affected peanut butter were recalled, the FDA learned that ConAgra also sent bulk qualities of Peter Pan peanut butter to its plant in Humboldt, Tenn. The bulk peanut butter was used to make three brands of commercial peanut butter topping. These included Sonic Brand Ready-To-Use Peanut Butter Topping in 6 lb., 10.5 oz. cans, and Carvel Peanut Butter Topping in 6 lb., 10 oz. containers. Both fast-food outlets used the topping until Feb. 16 when the topping was recalled. In addition, the contaminated peanut butter was also used in J. Hungerford Smith Peanut Butter Dessert Topping in 6 lb., 10 oz. cans, the FDA said. According to the FDA, the topping was used in the following Sonic products: * Peanut Butter Shake, * Peanut Butter Fudge Shake, * Peanut Butter Sundae, * Peanut Butter Fudge Sundae. The topping was used in the following Carvel ice cream products: * Chocolate Peanut Butter, * Peanut Butter Treasure, * Peanut Butter and Jelly, * Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Sundae Dasher. It is not known if any of the reported cases of salmonella were connected to the peanut butter topping sent to any of the three commercial users, Acheson said. “The 370 cases we are aware of are probably not everybody who got sick. There probably are a lot of other cases out there and it is possible that some of those individuals got sick from consuming some of the topping that was used in the Carvel or Sonic or J. Hungerford Smith product,” he said. “I can’t rule it out.”
Acheson thinks there will be more cases reported over the next few weeks. ConAgra has recalled all Peter Pan peanut butter and all Great Value peanut butter beginning with product code 2111. The recall extends to products made since December 2005. The FDA’s advice to consumers continues to be not to eat any Peter Pan peanut butter or any Great Value peanut butter beginning with the 2111 product code. This salmonella outbreak follows major food-borne illness scares in 2006 involving spinach, tomatoes and iceberg lettuce, and was followed late last month by recalls of imported cantaloupe, organic baby food and ready-to-eat chicken breast. Symptoms of food-borne illness caused by salmonella include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. In people with poor underlying health or weakened immune systems, salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections or death.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness each year in the United States, the vast majority of which are mild and cause symptoms that last a day or two. Some cases are more serious, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually. The most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, the very young and those with weakened immune systems. More information For more information on salmonella, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention