FDA Confirms Source of Salmonella Outbreak

A combination of epidemiological analysis and laboratory testing by state officials in Minnesota and Connecticut, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have enabled the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to confirm that the sources of the outbreak of illnesses caused by Salmonella Typhimurium are peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at its Blakely, Ga. processing plant.

Peanut butter is sold by PCA in bulk containers ranging in size from five to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to product sold by the tanker container. Neither of these products is sold directly to consumers.

However, through its investigation, the FDA has determined that PCA distributed potentially contaminated product to more than 70 consignee firms, for use as an ingredient in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream. Companies all over the country that received product from PCA have issued voluntary recalls of their products. The FDA has created a searchable database for these products, which can be found by clicking HERE. Identification of products subject to recall is continuing and this list is updated frequently.

Product recalls now include some pet food products that contain peanut paste that was made by PCA. While the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling these products. It is important for people to wash their hands--and make sure children wash their hands -- before and, especially, after feeding treats to pets.

Major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores are not affected by the PCA recall.

FDA and CDC recommendations for consumers include:

-- Do not eat products that have been recalled and throw them away in a manner that prevents others from eating them.

-- To determine if commercially-prepared or manufactured peanut butter/peanut paste-containing products (such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream) are subject to recall, consumers are urged first to visit FDA’s Web site and check the searchable database of recalled products.

-- For information on products containing peanut butter from companies not reporting recalls, consumers may wish to consult the company’s website or call the toll-free number listed on most packaging.  Information consumers may receive from the companies has not been verified by the FDA.

-- If consumers cannot determine if their peanut butter, peanut butter/peanut paste-containing products or institutionally-served peanut butter contains PCA peanut butter/peanut paste, FDA recommends that they do not consume those products.

-- Persons who think they may have become ill from eating peanut butter are advised to consult their healthcare providers.

The FDA has collaborated with the CDC and public health officials in various states to investigate the multi-state outbreak of human infections due to Salmonella Typhimurium.  An epidemiological investigation by the Minnesota Department of Health isolated and tested subsamples from an open five-pound container of King Nut peanut butter obtained at a nursing home where three patients were sickened by the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. The Minnesota Health officials found the peanut butter contained the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with the illnesses linked to the outbreak. 

Because it is always possible that the open container was contaminated by someone or something else in the environment, the FDA and the states began testing unopened containers of the same brand of peanut butter.  King Nut distributes peanut butter manufactured by the PCA to institutional facilities, food service industries, and private label food companies in several states. 

On Jan. 19, testing by the Connecticut Department of Health of an unopened container of King Nut peanut butter showed that it too contained the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with illnesses linked to the outbreak. The fact that the Salmonella Typhimurium was confirmed in an unopened container of peanut butter indicates that peanut butter originating from the processing plant was contaminated.

The FDA has initiated inspections at the direct consignees of PCA and King Nut and continues to follow the distribution points for products. The FDA has no evidence to suggest that the Salmonella Typhimurium contamination originated with any other major manufacturing facility other than PCA. The PCA facility in Blakely, Ga. is not operating at this time and the company has recalled peanut butter and peanut paste produced from July 1, 2008 to the present.

The FDA and food manufacturers are working to identify products that may be affected, and to track the ingredient supply chain of those products to facilitate their removal from the marketplace.

Source: FDA