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Salmonella Peanut Recalls: Expect More

No End in Sight to Peanut Product Recalls Spurred by Salmonella Outbreak; Criminal Probe Under Way

National, Name-Brand Peanut Butter OK

National, name-brand peanut butters sold at stores aren't linked to the outbreak. But FDA officials aren't as sure about "boutique brands" that stores may have made directly from peanuts they got from the Peanut Corporation of America's Blakely, Ga., plant.

Earlier this week, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) recalled all peanuts and peanut products processed at its Blakely, Ga., plant in the past two years. The plant isn't making those products anymore.

"Some stores will purchase peanuts and grind them themselves and make peanut butter, which they sell at retail," Stephen Sundlof, DVM, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said today at a press conference.

Sundlof notes that the PCA's expanded recall includes dry-roasted and oil-roasted peanuts. "It is possible -- and we certainly don't have any direct evidence that this occurred -- but it is possible that those nuts may be purchased and ground by certain stores or boutiques into their own brand," Sundlof says.

Peanut Product Recalls: Advice for Consumers

The FDA and CDC recommend taking these steps if you have concerns about peanut products:

  • Check the FDA's searchable database; people without Internet access can call the CDC.
  • If you still have questions, call the manufacturer (look for the toll-free phone number on the label) or visit the company's web site.
  • When in doubt, don't eat it, and don't feed it to your pet (some of the recalls include pet products).
  • Dispose of any potentially contaminated products in a way that those items won't get eaten.
  • Wash your hands after handling any potentially contaminated products.

Also, know that "PCA" or "Peanut Corporation of America" aren't on the labels of products that trace back to PCA. PCA didn't make any products that are sold directly to consumers.

Salmonella bacteria can cause symptoms including diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps with 12-72 hours of infection. See a doctor if you have any possible symptoms of salmonella infection.

Most people get better within a week without treatment, but serious and even life-threatening complications can occur, especially in infants, the elderly, and people with a weak immune system.

Criminal Investigation Under Way

The FDA and the U.S. Department of Justice are conducting a criminal investigation of the PCA and also looking into civil action against the PCA. Because the investigation is still under way, Sundlof declined to provide details about it.

Sundlof also confirmed today that in April 2008, a Canadian importer refused a shipment of PCA product from the Blakely, Ga., plant because it had metal fragments in it. That product was destroyed.

The PCA also has processing facilities in Suffolk, Va., and Plainview, Texas. The FDA has been to those facilities and says they're not linked to the outbreak or any recalls; the FDA's focus is only on the PCA's Blakely, Ga., plant.

On Jan. 28, the PCA issued a news release stating that the company wants its customers and consumers "to know that we are continuing to work day and night with the FDA and other officials to determine the source of the problem and ensure that it never happens again."

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