April 6, 2007 -- Moisture from a leaky roof and a faulty sprinkler system caused the recent peanut butter salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 425 people from 44 states.
That news comes from ConAgra Foods, which made the affected peanut butter.
ConAgra Foods spokeswoman Stephanie Childs tells WebMD that the problems have been fixed and that a "thorough cleanup" has been done at the plant.
In February, ConAgra Foods recalled all varieties of its Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter with the product code "2111" printed on the lid because of possible salmonella contamination.
Salmonella are bacteria that cause food poisoning. Typical symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramping.
Most cases fade within four to seven days without treatment, but complications or severe cases may require hospitalization. Elders, infants, and people with impaired immune systems are the most likely to have severe illness from salmonella.
The CDC got reports of 71 people who were hospitalized because of the peanut butter salmonella outbreak. No deaths have been linked to the outbreak.
The peanut butter was made at ConAgra Foods' plant in Sylvester, Ga.
"The company believes that moisture inadvertently entered the production process and allowed the growth of low levels of dormant salmonella in the environment that were likely present from raw peanuts or peanut dust," states ConAgra Foods in a news release.
The broken sprinkler system and the plant's roof, which leaked during an August 2006 rainstorm, are believed to be the sources of that unwanted moisture, Childs says.
"We are truly sorry for any harm that our peanut butter products caused," ConAgra Foods CEO Gary Rodkin says in the news release.
ConAgra Foods says it will begin shipping Peter Pan Peanut Butter to retailers this summer.