Manufacturers urged to inform public in peanut butter recall
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 19-Jan-2009
Related topics: Fruit, vegetable, nut ingredients
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has highlighted the difficulty of investigating ingredient-driven illness and called on manufacturers to inform consumers of the origin of their peanut ingredients.
The move came as the CDC continued its investigation of peanut products contaminated with salmonella and confirmed their link with the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), which has voluntarily recalled its peanut butter and paste.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that as of 9pm EST on Friday, 474 cases linked to PCA ingredients had been detected across 43 states, with 23 percent of those hospitalized. It said that infection may have contributed to six deaths.
The CDC’s Dr Robert Tauxe, who is overseeing the investigation, told reporters in a telephone briefing: “This is an excellent illustration of an ingredient-driven outbreak…Peanut butter is used as an ingredient in many foods which makes this investigation complicated.”
Advice to manufacturers
The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that food manufacturers should inform consumers if their products could contain peanut butter or paste produced by the PCA and added: “If a manufacturer knows their products do not contain peanut paste from PCA, they should inform consumers of that.”
The recommendation led to a flurry of statements from food manufacturers over the weekend, including Hershey, Mars, and ConAgra, who have issued statements to reassure the public that their products do not contain PCA peanut ingredients. Lance and Tasty Baking have also issued statements saying that their products are unaffected by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recall.
Kellogg’s, on the other hand, has recalled two brands of peanut butter sandwich crackers, while H-E-B, Ralcorp Frozen Baker and Hy-Vee have all issued recalls for a range of products which they say could be contaminated.
A list of products found to be affected so far is available on the FDA website, although the CDC has also urged consumers to postpone eating products which may contain peanut butter such as cookies, crackers, candy, cereal and ice-cream “until further information becomes available about whether that product may be affected.”
The outbreak has been traced to a processing plant in Georgia, where the PCA produces peanut butter and peanut paste under the King Nut brand for use in institutions such as schools, hospitals and nursing homes. According to the CDC, the company has now extended its product recall to include peanut butter manufactured at the facility on or after August 8, 2008, and peanut paste made on or after September 26, 2008. For the time being, the PCA has stopped all production at the plant.
The FDA has sought to reassure consumers that the outbreak has not been linked to name-brand peanut butter sold in grocery stores.
Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. The very old, very young and those with immune system deficiencies are most at risk of death from infection.