salmonella, salmonella outbreak, salmonella poisoning
Minnesota Department of Health
A container of King Nut peanut butter.

Kellogg Pulls Peanut Butter Products off Store Shelves

January 15, 2009 05:58 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As peanut butter is eyed as the possible source of a nationwide salmonella outbreak, Kellogg Co. is pulling some of its products off grocery store shelves.

Precautionary Measures

Kellogg says there are no known health concerns with its Keebler and Austin brand snack foods, but those that contain peanut butter are coming off the shelves for now.

Reuters reported that a salmonella outbreak in the United States has sickened "at least 410 people in 43 states," and peanut butter is believed to be the source of the problem. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other agencies are investigating Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) as the cause of the outbreak; Kellogg obtains supplies from PCA. 

Three deaths have been associated with the salmonella outbreak. Two people in Virginia had salmonella when they died, but whether the bacteria killed them is uncertain, according to The New York Times. An elderly woman in Minnesota also had salmonella at the time of her death.

Peanut Butter Eyed as Possible Source

An Ohio-based company, King Nut Cos, released a statement on Jan. 10, 2009, asking customers to return two types of peanut butter sold by the company. The company doesn’t sell its products in grocery stores; they are distributed to restaurants, schools, nursing homes and other such institutions, according to Reuters. The two brands are King Nut and Parnell’s Pride.

“King Nut said it asked customers to stop distributing all peanut butter with lot codes beginning with the number eight and has canceled orders with the manufacturer, Peanut Corporation of America,” Reuters said.

Almost 400 people in 42 states have become sick from a salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that has been spreading around the country since September.

USA Today reported that officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are having a hard time finding the source of the outbreak, and they have called in experts from other departments to help with the investigation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and state health officials are all working to determine where the salmonella is coming from, according to Reuters. The CDC stated that poultry, cheese and eggs are the primary sources for the Typhimurium strain, which has sent about 70 people to the hospital so far.

Finding the cause of a food-borne illness can be tough, CDC spokesman David Daigle told Reuters. “People may not remember the foods they recently ate and may not be aware of all of the ingredients in food. That’s what makes these types of investigations very difficult.”

The source of previous outbreak, which spread over the summer, took months to pinpoint and was first erroneously attributed to tomatoes before Mexican peppers were identified as the source.

The jar of peanut butter contaminated with salmonella was found in Minnesota. Officials have not yet said whether the peanut butter is responsible for the current outbreak. But a state health department statement Reuters quoted said, “The Minnesota cases have the same genetic fingerprint” as other cases in the current outbreak.

Background: The last major salmonella investigation

From April through August 2008, health officials conducted one of their largest investigations into food-borne illnesses in a decade when a salmonella outbreak sickened hundreds of people around the country. Raw red round, red Roma and red plum tomatoes were originally cited as potential causes of the outbreak, but the investigation later turned to shipments of peppers and chilies from Mexico. When the investigation centered on tomatoes, millions of dollars in merchandise was destroyed.

Related Topic: Prevalence of food-borne illnesses

In 2008, federal health officials said food-borne illnesses had remained constant in the United States since 2004. Food safety experts maintained that people were more likely to be involved in a car crash than become ill from eating vegetables. “Fear is still by far the biggest pathogen here, not salmonella,” columnist Marc Siegel was quoted as saying.

Reference: Salmonella


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