Alert: Peanut Butter Products May Be Unsafe to Consume

Key Takeaways:

  • The FDA has issued a warning against consuming products containing peanut butter due to an outbreak of salmonella traced to Peanut Corp. of America’s Georgia-based plant.
  • The salmonella outbreak has affected 470 individuals across 43 states in the US and Canada and has been linked to six fatalities.
  • Famous brands like Kellogg, McKee Foods Corp, Hy-Vee Inc., and Perry’s Ice Cream have initiated product recalls. But, FDA hasn’t identified all brands or foods potentially affected yet.
  • A strain of Salmonella Typhimurium found at the Peanut Corp. plant is common in uncooked eggs and meats, further complicating the identification process.
  • The Peanut Corp. has issued a recall for 21 lots of peanut butter, a reminder of a similar salmonella outbreak two years ago involving ConAgra’s Peter Pan brand peanut butter, which caused 625 cases of salmonella across 47 states.

The American Food and Drug Administration cautions shoppers to avoid any items containing peanut butter or peanut paste. This advisory comes in the wake of an expanding recall and ongoing investigation into an outbreak of salmonella.

The Scope of the Alert

The advisory from US health officials encompasses products that contain peanut butter, such as crackers, but excludes jars of peanut butter found on store shelves.

“We urge the public to refrain from consuming products with peanut butter until more concrete information is available, empowering them to make informed decisions,” says Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Reports from across 43 states in the US and Canada suggest that the outbreak has affected approximately 470 individuals and has been linked to six fatalities.

Companies Respond to the Recall

Kellogg, the well-known cereal manufacturer, issued a recall for 16 of its products containing peanut butter. This recall encompasses 33,000 cases of cookies and seven million cases of crackers, with products including Keebler’s cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers, as well as Keebler and Famous Amos peanut butter cookies.

Several other companies, amongst them McKee Foods Corp, Hy-Vee Inc., and Perry’s Ice Cream, have since joined the recall. McKee Foods Corp specifically has undertaken a recall of their Little Debbie Peanut Butter Toasty and Peanut Butter Cheese Sandwich Crackers. Hy-Vee Inc. has recalled various bakery items containing peanut butter, and Perry’s Ice Cream has voluntarily recalled certain ice cream products containing peanut butter.

This flurry of recalls was triggered by the FDA’s request for a salmonella test from all food companies that may have sourced peanut butter or peanut paste from a Georgia-based facility owned by the Peanut Corp. of America.

Current State of Investigation

As the investigation continues, Stephen Sundlof reveals that salmonella contamination has been traced back to a Georgia-based plant owned by the Peanut Corp. of America, which produces a brand of peanut butter distributed to larger institutions, such as nursing homes, and also manufactures a peanut paste used as an ingredient in a wide array of food products.

However, it remains unclear whether the strain of salmonella found at the plant is the one responsible for the outbreak, and FDA has yet to identify all brands or foods that feature peanut butter and may thus be affected.

“We currently lack specific information regarding which brands or products consumers should be wary of,” Sundlof admits.

The fear is that the peanut paste is a common ingredient in many products, from baked goods to cooking sauces. Initially, state and federal investigators prioritized containers of peanut butter sold in bulk to institutions such as nursing homes, but not grocery stores.

The commonality of this particular type of salmonella, known as Salmonella Typhimurium, further complicates matters. It serves as a common contaminant in uncooked eggs and meats, according to officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deaths and Contamination

While the causes of the deaths remain undetermined, it has been established that salmonella infection was present in six adults from various states at the time of their death, and it’s believed that the outbreak could have contributed to these events.

Following its own testing, the Peanut Corp. issued a recall for 21 lots of peanut butter due to potential salmonella contamination. The products were produced at the plant in Blakely, Georgia, since July 1, 2008, and marketed under the brand names Parnell’s Pride and King Nut.

This recall and its potential connection to a multi-state outbreak serve as a stark reminder of a similar event two years ago involving ConAgra’s Peter Pan brand peanut butter, which was connected to at least 625 salmonella cases across 47 states.

ConAgra has since issued a public notice stating that its products are not at risk since it does not source from the Peanut Corp. of America.

The events underline the importance of staying up-to-date and informed about product recalls and food safety issues.

Additional Information

For a list of the peanut butter products recalled by Kellogg, please visit here.

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