Health officials in Ohio have confirmed that a 9th salmonella death has been linked to the recent food poisoning outbreak caused by tainted peanut butter and other products manufactured by Peanut Corporation of America.
Over 1,900 different peanut recalls have been issued for products that contain peanut butter, peanut paste or other ingredients processed by Peanut Corporation of America. Testing has confirmed that the products could be contaminated with Salmonella typhimurium, which is the strain of bacteria which has sickened over 600 people throughout the United States.
Although limited information was provided about the identity of the latest fatality or what specific product she may have eaten, the Ohio Department of Health has confirmed that an elderly woman who died in the state earlier this year was infected with the same strain of bacteria. At least 8 other salmonella deaths have already been linked to the peanut products.
The very young, elderly and those with a weakened immune system are at the greatest risk of salmonella poisoning, and the ages of people infected in this widespread outbreak have ranged from 2 months to 98 years.
The president of Peanut Corporation of America, Stewart Parnell, appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week, but invoked his Constitutional protection against self-incrimination and refused the testify.
Emails seized by federal agents appear to show that Parnell was aware that products and ingredients they produced were contaminated with salmonella and ordered that shipments continue to go out. As a result, the contaminated peanut ingredients were used in millions of pounds of food sold and distributed throughout the United States.
The fact that the growing number of peanut butter deaths and illnesses appear to have been preventable, has caused the FDA to consider changes to their inspection procedures. They may begin taking a more proactive approach and collect samples from every production facility they inspect, as opposed to only collecting samples after there is a problem.
Last year, a Peter Pan peanut butter recall was issued after hundreds of people where sickened in a similar salmonella outbreak caused by problems during the manufacturing process. As a result, government officials are now considering labeling peanut butter a high risk food, which would require producers to follow more stringent safety guidelines.