The Washington Post (1/21, A2, Layton) reports, “The federal government is advising consumers to avoid cookies, cakes, ice cream and crackers made with peanut butter or peanut paste while it continues to investigate an outbreak of salmonella illness that is believed to have killed six people and sickened at least 485 others across the country.” After the CDC identified a factory in Georgia as the source of the outbreak, a number of the country’s largest food manufacturers and retailers followed the lead of Kellogg’s last week and acted to voluntarily recall products. The Post notes that “a list of recalled products is being kept and updated by the government,” and “major-label peanut butter is not suspected to be contaminated with salmonella and is considered safe to eat.”
The AP (1/21) reports, “Health officials say the number of people sickened in a national salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter has grown to 485 cases.” The CDC “said Tuesday the number has been inching up as lab tests confirm that new cases have the same genetic fingerprint as the outbreak strain.” In addition, “the illnesses have been reported in 43 states and Canada, and may have contributed to the deaths of six people.”
In its Booster Shots blog, the Los Angeles Times (1/21) reports, “The recalls of processed foods containing peanut butter are one sign of the importance of reading food labels.” Though the FDA is closed on Inauguration Day, “the agency website says that officials have traced sources of Salmonella Typhimurium contamination to a plant owned by Peanut Corp. of America that manufactures peanut butter and peanut paste — a concentrated product consisting of ground, roasted peanuts.” The agency also “says that if you can’t determine whether the food contains PCA peanut butter or paste, it recommends you not eat it,” and that “people to dispose of foods in a way that will prevent anyone else from eating them.”
CDC: Salmonella strain “not particularly dangerous.” The AP (1/21) reports that the CDC “said the bacteria behind the outbreak is common and not an unusually dangerous strain but that the elderly or those with weakened immune systems are more at risk,” noting that “at least five of the six people who died were elderly.” Although persons in each of the six cases “had salmonella when they died…their exact causes of death haven’t been determined.”
As product recall widens, firms take stock of business impact. The Dow Jones Newswires (1/21) reports, “A recall of peanut butter made by a small Virginia company has ballooned into a withdrawal of related products nationwide, highlighting the challenges large food makers face in policing their supply chains.” Although many of the larger manufacturers “already have controls in place to ensure food safety…the most recent recalls could push some of them to review those systems yet again.” A spokeswoman for Kellogg said “the company already has stringent food safety programs in place, which include tests for pathogens in its plants and using a third-party lab.” General Mills, meanwhile, said through a spokesman that the “recalled products had been tested extensively.”
Bloomberg News (1/20, Jinks, Hart) reported Monday that Kirstie Foster, a spokeswoman for Minneapolis-based General Mills, “said the company didn’t have a cost estimate for the recall,” but that “our retailers are very responsive and we expect [the recall] ill be accomplished very quickly.”
FDA criticized for slow reaction. Though federal agencies have largely avoided criticism during the outbreak, on Monday, the Wall Street Journal (1/20, Jargon, Zhang) reported that Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro said in Washington that “this latest Salmonella outbreak confirms yet again the dire need to modernize our food safety laws. … Given the numerous food-borne illness outbreaks over the past several years, it is becoming painfully clear that the current regulatory structure is antiquated and ill-equipped to handle these extensive investigations.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.