Friday, January 16, 2009

Sixth Death Reported In Peanut Butter Outbreak

Salmonella found in unopened peanut butter jars in Georgia and Connecticut
January 16, 2009

North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services reported today that a Catawba County resident died of "...a blood infection caused by Salmonella..." in November 2008. The victim was infected by the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium that has been linked to contaminated peanut butter manufactured at the Blakely, Georgia facility owned and operated by Peanut Corporation of America.

This report brings the death toll in the current outbreak to six – two each in Virginia and Minnesota, one in Idaho and one in North Carolina.

The state did not release any other details about the victim, but reported that there are now four confirmed outbreak cases of salmonellosis in North Carolina.

Ohio, also has released an updated list of outbreak cases, summarized by county. That state has now logged a total of 64 confirmed cases in 25 counties. Eighteen victims have been hospitalized; fortunately, there have been no fatalities.

CDC reported this evening that the number of confirmed cases has risen to 453. This new tally does not reflect the increased number of cases in Ohio, which stands at 57 in the CDC totals. Nor does today's summary include the death just reported by North Carolina.

Salmonella contamination has now been confirmed in unopened jars of peanut butter in two separate states. The Georgia Department of Agriculture, which reported a presumptive positive result yesterday, has now confirmed Salmonella in "... an unopened five-pound tub of King Nut Creamy Peanut Butter with 'Best Before 1/07/10." Additional samples are still being analyzed, and testing is underway to determine whether the genetic fingerprint of this isolate matches the outbreak strain.

Connecticut, too, has found Salmonella in an unopened container of peanut butter. The state's Department of Consumer Protection detected Salmonella Type B (the group to which Typhimurium belongs) in a jar of King Nut peanut butter obtained from City Line distributors (West Haven, CT). 

The contaminated five-pound tub was labeled with lot #8234 and a production date of 8/21/2008. Genetic fingerprinting of the isolate is underway and additional samples are being analyzed. The peanut butter is believed to have been shipped by City Line to customers in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. City Line has provided its distribution lists to the state and is cooperating in the investigation.

There has been no further word from Kellogg on the progress of their internal investigations. The company announced a "precautionary hold" of several Austin and Keebler peanut butter sandwich cracker varieties two days ago. Nor has any other food processor announced a hold or recall of products that contain peanut butter.

According to a report carried by Associated Press, FDA is contacting approximately 30 food processing companies that may have received contaminated peanut butter or peanut butter paste from PCA, and advising those companies to test their products.

This investigation, undoubtedly, will generate a plethora of recalls, and new pressure to review and reform the country's food safety system.


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