Jan. 30, 2009 -- More recalls and a criminal investigation are the latest news in the salmonella outbreak linked to the Peanut Corporation of America's processing plant in Blakely, Ga.
More than 400 peanut products have been recalled in the wake of the outbreak. Those items are listed in the FDA's searchable list of recalled products. That list is expected to keep growing, so FDA officials encourage consumers to check it regularly. Companies that have recently announced new or expanded peanut butter recalls include:
- Arico Natural Foods Company is recalling Arico Peanut Butter Cookies and Cookie Bars.
- Orchard Valley Harvest is recalling certain conventional and organic peanuts roasted and packed for Safeway.
- Country Maid Inc. has expanded its recall of 2-pound packages of Classic Breaks Peanut Butter Cookie Dough.
- Hy-Vee Inc. is recalling its freshly made party mix and peanut brittle sold at Hy-Vee stores in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota.
- Meijer is recalling Meijer Bulk Dry Roasted Peanuts, Markets of Meijer Dry Roasted Peanuts, Meijer Vanilla Sundae Cone w/Peanuts, and Meijer Fudge Sundae Cone w/Peanuts.
- Fieldbrook Foods Corp. is recalling ice cream sundae cone products that contain granulated peanuts from PCA. This recall includes more than 80 products sold under the brands America's Choice, Artic Classic, Big Y, Bon, Byrn Dairy, Carnival, Cub Foods, Dolly Madison, Econo, Food Club, Flavorite, Food City, Giant Eagle, Giant, Grande, Greens, Hill Country Fare, Hagan, Hood, Ice Girl, IGA, Kay's Key Food, Krasdale, Lowes, Market Basket, Meijer, Pathmark, Price Chopper, Pricerite, Publix, River Valley, Redners, Richfood, Roundy's, Shop 'n Save, Shoprite, Shurfine, Shurfresh, Stater Bros, Stop & Shop, Sundae Shoppe, Tops, United Dairy, Valu Time, Velvet, Weis, and Winn Dixie.
- Wells' Dairy Inc. is recalling all Blue Bunny No Sugar Added Reduced Fat Bunny Tracks Ice Cream with "Best Used By" dates prior to Jan. 29, 2009, and one lot of Blue Bunny Personals Bunny Tracks with a "Best Used By" date of 09/11/09.
- Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is recalling its peanut covered doughnuts (sold individually), peanut butter cookies (sold by the pound only in Wegmans stores with a full-service cookie shop), and chocolate peanut butter tarts (sold only in Wegmans stores with a full-service patisserie).
If you know someone without Internet access, they can call the CDC at 800-CDC-INFO and a staff member will search the FDA's database for them.
At least 529 people in 43 states and a person in Canada have been sickened by the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. The outbreak may have contributed to at least eight deaths, according to the CDC.
The outbreak isn't over, but there has been a "modest" drop in reported cases, the CDC's Robert Tauxe, MD, MPH, said today at a news conference. Tauxe is deputy director of the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases.
The most recent onset of illness was Jan. 16, and more reports may be coming since it can take a couple of weeks for new cases to be reported to the CDC.
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.
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."