The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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Salmonella in Peanut Butter Update

Salmonella in Peanut Butter Update

Food Safety Update

January 25, 2009

The CDC and the FDA are coordinating a large scale investigation into a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium, which has infected 491 persons since September 2008. So far, it looks like peanut butter and paste products may be to blame. Thus far, no association has been found with major national brand name jars of peanut butter sold in stores.

Early research pinpointed King Nut brand creamy peanut butter as a likely source of the infections among many ill people in Minnesota when an open 5-pound container of the product tested positive for Salmonella Typhimurium. This product is not sold directly to consumers, but is distributed to hospitals, schools, restaurants, cafeterias and bakeries.

Salmonella was also found in an unopened 5-pound container by both the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Additional infections were reported in hospitals and long-term care facilities where King Nut is used.

The Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) in Blakely, Georgia, producers of King Nut, is currently recalling peanut butter made on or after August 8, 2008 and peanut paste made on or after September 26, 3008. Both the peanut butter and peanut paste products manufactured at this facility are used as ingredients in other products.

Persons infected with Salmonella usually develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection, with the illness lasting four to seven days. Severe cases can even result in death. The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to develop the illness after exposure. Antibiotic treatment may be necessary in certain cases.
Of the persons who have been interviewed thus far, those infected range in age from under one to 98 years, and 48% percent of are women. Twenty-two percent report being hospitalized, and infection may have contributed to six deaths. 
Salmonella Typhimurium illnesses have been confirmed in Alabama (1), Arizona (10), Arkansas (4), California (62), Colorado (12), Connecticut (9), Georgia (6), Hawaii (3), Idaho (11), Illinois (6), Indiana (4), Iowa (2), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Maine (4), Maryland (8), Massachusetts (42), Michigan (25), Minnesota (35), Missouri (9), Mississippi (3), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (11), New Jersey (19), New York (18), Nevada (5), North Carolina (6), North Dakota (10), Ohio (67), Oklahoma (2), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (14), Rhode Island (4), South Dakota (2), Tennessee (9), Texas (6), Utah (5), Vermont (4), Virginia (20), Washington (13), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (3), and Wyoming (2). Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada.

The CDC and FDA are advising manufacturers to inform consumers about whether their products could contain peanut butter or peanut paste from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). The are also advising retailers to talk to their customers about postponing the consumption of peanut butter containing products like cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream until more information becomes available. Of course, recalled products should not be consumed. For a list of recalled products, visit:

The last major outbreak of Salmonella in peanut butter was back in August of 2006 and ran through March of 2007. In this case the strain was Salmonella Tennessee. The outbreak, stemming from Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter, resulted in 488 cases in 44 states. Seventy-one people were hospitalized and there were no reported deaths.

Salmonella bacteria live in the intestinal tracts of humans and other animals, and is usually transmitted by eating foods contaminated with animal feces. In most cases, contaminated foods look and smell normal. Approximately 40,000 cases of salmonellosis are reported in the United States every year. The actual number of infections may be 30 or more times greater, however, because many milder cases are not diagnosed or reported.