Peanut butter contamination may have been preventable

posted on:
January 26, 2009

author:
Kurt Niland

According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 500 people in 43 states and Canada have been sickened by an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium, which has been traced to products containing contaminated peanut butter originating from the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Authorities also believe the contaminated peanut butter has lead to about 100 hospitalizations and is linked to eight deaths.

According to a report in the Washington Post, federal officials now say the company knowingly shipped out contaminated peanut butter 12 times in the past two years. The statistic was released by officials at the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which have been investigating the salmonella outbreak.

Officials say that PCA sold products that received a positive test for salmonella once, but may have tested negative at a different laboratory in a second test, and were then green-lighted for distribution.

The FDA notified PCA on Jan. 19, 2009, that samples of peanut butter originating from the company’s facility in Blakely, Georgia, tested positive for the salmonella bacteria. The peanut butter was distributed under the King Nut brand name and sold wholesale to food manufacturers and institutions such as long-term care facilities and cafeterias.

PCA does not sell its peanut butter or paste directly to consumers, but it is used by manufacturers in products including crackers, cookies, energy bars, cereal, dog biscuits and others. PCA sells its peanut butter in containers ranging from 5 to 1,700 pounds. Its peanut butter paste is sold in bulk containers ranging from 35 pounds to tanker loads.

According to the Washington Post story, the CDC has identified four strains of salmonella at the Georgia plant, although only the Typhimurium strain has been linked to the illnesses and deaths.

The Peanut Corporation of America is based in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The FDA is maintaining a continually updated list of all products affected by the recall. Affected products were sold between between Aug. 21, 2008, and Jan. 19, 2009.

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