salmonella in peanut butter
February 15, 2007 10:48pm CST
Okay, I have 4 jars of the stuff, they make it bad and I am supposed to throw it out. How about I take it to the store and get my money back!!! Health Officials Say Salmonella Outbreak Linked to 2 Brands of Tainted Peanut Butter Thursday , February 15, 2007 ADVERTISEMENT ATLANTA — Government scientists struggled Thursday to pinpoint the source of the first U.S. salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter, the kid favorite packed into millions of lunchboxes every day. Nearly 300 people in 39 states have fallen ill since August, and federal health investigators said they strongly suspect Peter Pan peanut butter and certain batches of Wal-Mart's Great Value house brand — both manufactured by ConAgra Foods Inc. Shoppers across the country were warned to throw out jars with a product code on the lid beginning with "2111," which denotes the plant where it was made. Click here for more details on the peanut-butter brands affected. How the dangerous germ got into the peanut butter was a mystery. But because peanuts are usually heated to high, germ-killing temperatures during the manufacturing process, government and industry officials said the contamination may have been caused by dirty jars or equipment. "We think we have very strong evidence that this was the brand of peanut butter. Now it goes to the next step of going to the place where the peanut butter was made and focusing in on the testing," said Dr. Mike Lynch, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The suspect peanut butter was produced by ConAgra at its only peanut butter plant, in Sylvester, Ga., federal investigators said. ConAgra said it is not clear how many jars are affected by the recall. But the plant is the sole producer of the nationally distributed Peter Pan brand, and the recall covers all peanut butter — smooth and chunky alike — produced by the plant from May 2006 until now. "We're talking a lot of jars of peanut butter," said Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. FDA inspectors visited the now shut-down plant Wednesday and Thursday to try to pinpoint where the contamination could have happened. The FDA last inspected the plant in 2005. Testing was also being done on at least some the salmonella victims' peanut butter jars, but investigators said some may have already been discarded. The highest number of cases were reported in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri. About 20 percent of all the ill were hospitalized, and there were no deaths, the CDC said. About 85 percent of the infected people said they ate peanut butter, and about a quarter of them ate it at least once a day, the CDC's Lynch said. It was the only food that most of the patients had all recently eaten. "We think there's very strong evidence that it was this brand of peanut butter," Lynch said. Salmonella sickens about 40,000 people a year in the U.S. and kills about 600. It can cause diarrhea, fever, dehydration, abdominal pain and vomiting. But most cases of salmonella poisoning are caused by undercooked eggs and chicken. The only known salmonella outbreak in peanut butter — in Australia during the mid-1990s — was blamed on unsanitary plant conditions. ConAgra spokesman Chris Kircher said the company randomly tests 60 to 80 jars of peanut butter that come off its Sylvester plant's line each day for salmonella and other germs, and "we've had no positive hits on that going back for years." But he said the plant was shut down as a precaution for further investigation. "We're trying to understand what else we need to do or should be doing," Kircher said. An estimated 974 million pounds of peanut butter are sold each year in the U.S., and peanut butter and jelly is the most popular sandwich among children. Peter Pan is one of the nation's top three brands, though well behind market leader Jif. Great Value peanut butter is also produced by some other manufacturers for Wal-Mart. In a measure of peanut butter's popularity, ConAgra's hot line was swamped with so many calls after the recall was announced on Wednesday that many people got a busy signal. School officials in Houston confiscated students' sandwiches from home and replaced them with those made at schools. And in Georgia, a lawmaker representing one of the nation's biggest peanut-producing areas warned colleagues to throw out jars of peanut butter that he recently handed out. The outbreak was detected by the CDC and state health agencies when they noticed spikes in the cases of people sickened by an unusual type of salmonella, starting in August. Once peanut butter emerged as a link, the CDC notified the FDA. Salmonella commonly originates in the feces of birds and animals, and could be introduced at a multitude of stages in the peanut butter-making process. But many safeguards are in place. While rodents and birds commonly get into peanut storage bins, germs are killed when raw peanuts are roasted. When making peanut butter, the nuts are again heated — above the salmonella-killing temperature of 165 degrees — as they are ground into a paste and mixed with other ingredients before being squirted into jars and quickly sealed. "The heating process is sufficient to kill salmonella, should it be present," said Mike Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety, in the state that produces nearly half of the nation's peanuts. Experts say the point in the process where salmonella could be introduced and survive would be as the product cools down, is placed in the jars and then sealed. At most plants, those steps take just minutes. But "there is quite a lot that happens after that heat step ... before it's put in jars. So there's definitely an opportunity for contamination after the roasting," the FDA's Acheson said. Acheson speculated a small, on-again, off-again source of contamination caused the outbreak, which would explain the relatively small number of illness. That "will make finding it in peanut butter difficult. But that's not going to stop us from looking," he said. Other states reporting cases are Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia. The strain in this outbreak, Salmonella serotype Tennessee, is comparatively rare, as is salmonella contamination of peanut products, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It's taken them a long time to identify peanut butter as the cause, but that may be because they had to get over their denial. It's just not one of the first things you'd suspect," Smith DeWaal said.
4 people like this
• United States
16 Feb 07
You can send the lids from you peanut butter and get our money back. I think you asked that a bit ago on a another discussion. This is why I would prefer to grow my own stuff. Also I don't worry alot about germs so that my body learns to defend against the onslaught that is all around of us bacteria and germs. We try to be too clean. Hope that all the offending jars are caught and no one is lost to this latest problem. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.
• United States
16 Feb 07
It is getting so you just dont know what to eat and what not to. What will they recall next. It is scarey. I think it just reaffirms the need for use to raise as much of our own food as we possibley can. The more people who touch the food, the higher our chances of getting harmful bacteria or somethig else.
• United States
16 Feb 07
Why does it NOT surprise me? You have to wonder anymore about everything you eat don't you? You dine out, can get sick from unwashed veggies, buy spinach, can die, just so much to think about! I guess my first thoughts of making fresh ground peanut butter at my co-op might be a better idea then I thought!
• United States
6 Mar 07
OK so I see this started 3 weeks ago when we first heard about Peter Pan... My question is are you ever going to buy PP again?? I still have 2 jars sitting out on my counter-- waiting for me to take it back! I've been going through PB withdrawl!
6 Mar 07
After shopping, get home as soon as you can. Then put food into the refrigerator or freezer right away. Make sure to set the refrigerator temperature to 40° F and the freezer to0° F. Check temperatures with an appliance thermometer. Be sure to refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared foods,and leftovers within 2 hours of shopping or preparing. Place raw meat, poultry, and seafood in containers in the refrigerator, to prevent their juices from dripping on other foods. Raw juices may contain harmful bacteria. Eggs always go in the refrigerator.