The recently recalled peanut butter sold by Ohio-based King Nut Companies has been identified as the likely source of a Salmonella outbreak that has caused at least 410 people in 43 states to suffer from food poisoning, including over 70 hospitalizations and 3 deaths.
The peanut butter was manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America and distributed by King Nut Companies directly to food service providers such as schools, universities, hospitals, care facilities and restaurants. It was not distributed to consumers or made available for retail sale.
“Clusters of infections in several states have been reported in schools and other institutions, such as long-term care facilities and hospitals, and King Nut is the only brand of peanut butter used in those facilities for which we have information,” indicated the CDC in an update posted on their website on January 12, 2009.
Minnesota Department of Health officials indicated yesterday that the Salmonella bacteria they found on January 9, 2009, in a five-pound open tub of King Nut peanut butter at a nursing home in Minnesota matched the strain involved in the outbreak, known as Salmonella typhimurium.
King Nut Companies issued a nationwide peanut butter recall on January 10, 2009, for about 1,000 cases of food service peanut butter sold under the King Nut and Parnell’s Pride labels. The cases impacted by the recall all contain lot codes beginning with “8”.
Although the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture and Health has confirmed a genetic match between the strain of the King Nut peanut butter salmonella and the strain found in those sickened in the outbreak, questions remain about whether this peanut butter is the sole cause of the illnesses.
Cases of Salmonella typhimurium food poisoning have been confirmed in 43 states, with the only states that have not reported any confirmed illnesses being Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico and South Carolina.
According to a press release issued by King Nut Companies, their peanut butter is only distributed to food service providers in Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Arizona, Idaho and New Hampshire.
“We only distribute in seven states and therefore King Nut peanut butter could not possibly be the source of a nationwide outbreak of salmonella,” said Martin Kanan, president and KEO of King Nut Companies in the statement released January 12, 2009.
The peanut butter distributed by King Nut is manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America, and it is not clear at this time whether other peanut butter manufactured at the same facility may have been distributed in other states.
Salmonella food poisoning can cause symptoms to appear within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the bacteria. For most health adults, the food poisoning symptoms are limited to diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, abdominal cramps and fever, which usually resolves in a few weeks. In more serious cases, salmonella can result in hospitalization or death.
The distribution of the contaminated King Nut peanut butter to nursing homes, schools, hospitals and other healthcare institutions is particularly concerning, since the elderly, young children and those with weak immune systems are more prone to the food poisoning. This may account for the high rate of hospitalizations (18%) associated with the salmonella outbreak and three deaths.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have advised individuals who think that they may have become ill from eating peanut butter to contact their healthcare providers.