The recent Salmonella food poisoning outbreak that has sickened over 434 people in 43 states, appears to be caused by large tubs of recalled peanut butter manufactured at a processing plant in Blakely, Georgia and sold to hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other food service institutions.
The first reports of the salmonella peanut butter food poisoning started to appear in September 2008, with most of the confirmed cases occurring between October 1, 2008 and December 30, 2008.
The strain of bacteria associated with the outbreak is Salmonella typhimurium, which is the same strain identified by the Minnesota Department of Health in an open five pound container of King Nut peanut butter at a nursing home on January 9, 2009.
On January 10, King Nut Companies issued a peanut butter recall for over 1,000 tubs of their King Nut peanut butter and Parnell’s Pride labels.
The CDC has indicated that several clusters of salmonella food poisoning have all been traced to hospitals, nursing homes or other institutions where they only served the recalled peanut butter from King Nut.
All of the peanut butter recalled by King Nut was manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America at a plant in Blakely, Georgia. It was sold in bulk packaging to distributors for institutional use or food service industry use, and none of the recalled peanut butter was sold directly to consumers through retail stores.
On January 13, 2009, Peanut Corporation of America issued their own peanut butter salmonella recall, for 21 lots of their Creamy, Natural Course, Old Fashioned and Crunchy peanut butter sold in containers weighing 5 pounds, 35 pounds, 45 pounds and 50 pounds.
“We deeply regret that this has happened,” said Stewart Parnell, owner and president of Peanut Corporation of America, which is based in Lynchburg, Virginiia, and owns the Georgia processing plant which appears likely to be the source of the contamination.
In February 2007, after over 600 cases of salmonella food poisoning surfaced, including several deaths, Con Agra Foods recalled thousands of jars of Peter Pan peanut butter and Great Value peanut butter which was manufactured at a different plant in Georgia.
Subsequent inspections of the Con Agra plant found that the company had poor testing and quality control procedures, and the plant was found to have a defective sprinkler system and leaky roof, which allowed Salmonella bacteria to contaminate peanut butter produced in the building.
Consumption of salmonella contaminated peanut butter could result in symptoms of food poisoning to surface within 12 to 72 hours, with diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever.
While most healthy adults are able to recover fairly quickly, young children, elderly and those with weak immune systems who may have eaten the recalled peanut butter at a hospital, nursing home, school or other institution, could be more susceptible to severe forms of food poisoning, which could ultimately be fatal.