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CDC: Infected People Ate Salmonella-Contaminated Peanut Butter Crackers

Jan. 21, 2009 -- More than 125 consumer peanut butter products, from more than 70 companies, have been recalled in the ongoing U.S. salmonella outbreak.

The most recent person to get sick fell ill on Jan 8. Since it takes up to three weeks for cases to be reported to the CDC, more cases are expected. So far, the CDC has received reports of six deaths and 107 hospitalizations among the 486 people sickened in 43 U.S. states and one Canadian province.

Yesterday the FDA announced that at least one brand of pet products -- PetSmart's Great Choice Dog Biscuits -- is made with peanut paste linked to the salmonella outbreak. The FDA says more human and pet products are likely to be recalled as the agency's peanut probe continues.

To keep track of the widening number of potentially contaminated products, the FDA has created a web site that will be updated as new information comes in.

To find out how they got sick, the CDC last weekend interviewed 57 people ill with the outbreak strain of salmonella and compared their food-consumption histories to 399 healthy people.

The result: Sick people outside institutions tended to have eaten the Kellog's Austin and Keebler brands of peanut-butter crackers already linked to contaminated peanut paste. Kellog's recalled the products as soon as it learned of the possible contamination, the day before the CDC investigation began.

Adults and children sickened at hospitals, nursing homes, and schools tended to have eaten the King Nut brand of peanut butter. In all 14 institutions for which detailed information is available, the CDC and state health departments traced salmonella illnesses to the King Nut brand of peanut butter.

King Nut peanut butter is sold in large containers only to institutions. No commercial peanut butter brands sold in grocery stores have been linked to the salmonella outbreak.

Tracing the Salmonella Outbreak

The joint FDA and CDC investigation has traced the salmonella outbreak to peanut butter and peanut paste, a product used in a wide range of peanut-flavored foods, made at a peanut processing plant in Blakely, Ga. The plant is owned and operated by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA); the FDA says it gets its peanuts from both domestic and international sources.

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