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Malt-O-Meal Puffed Wheat Involved in Latest Salmonella Scare

Apr 7, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP The cereal maker Malt-O-Meal is voluntarily recalling some packages of unsweetened Puffed Rice and unsweetened Puffed Wheat cereals because of a possible salmonella contamination.  The packages at risk are those with “Best if Used By” dates between April 8, 2008 and March 18, 2009.  Although the Minneapolis-based company says no illnesses have been reported, the recall was prompted by internal food safety tests that found salmonella in a product produced March 24, 2008.  Malt-O-Meal has issued the recall as a precaution.

Salmonella can occur when food is improperly stored or handled and when preparers do not wash their hands or do not sanitize implements involved in meat storage.  People infected with salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours of infection.  Laboratory testing is required to determine the presence of Salmonella; additional testing can determine the specific type and which antibiotics are needed.  Generally, the illness lasts a week and most people recover without treatment; however, in some, diarrhea may be so severe that hospitalization is required.  In these cases, the infection may have spread from the intestines to the blood stream and other body sites.  Severe cases can result in death if not treated.

Earlier this year, Oahu state health investigators identified a relatively rare type of salmonella poisoning linked to similar cases on the mainland through DNA fingerprinting of the bacteria which are believed due to raw ahi imported and distributed to Hawaii and other places.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was conducting a "traceback investigation" to determine if there was a common contamination source; about 30 cases were confirmed on Oahu since October.  The rare type of salmonella involved is called Paratyphi B.  Those ill with this Paratyphi B salmonella suffer from diarrhea, fevers, and chills and most infections resolve on their own without need for antibiotics.  Scattered cases began occurring in October in different parts of Oahu.

Meanwhile, state health officials in New Mexico are investigating four cases of a rare type of salmonella in people who ate at the Flying Tortilla in Santa Fe from mid-January to mid-February.  Health workers notified the state Environment Department about three cases in January, and the Environment Department's food inspectors conducted an investigation of the restaurant and found that the workers follow all food service regulations.

Recently, the Yuma County Health District received 19 confirmed cases of salmonella in Arizona—from the 20 samples it submitted for state testing—all originating from a Yuma hospice event.  Preliminary state tests confirmed the presence of salmonella in beef tri-tip cuts served at the Hospice event at the Yuma County Fairgrounds or later donated to the mission; some meat was taken home by hospice event attendees.  The county health department began investigating after receiving 92 notifications of gastrointestinal illness from Yuma Regional Medical Center, the mission, or other individuals.

Most recently, salmonella was the cause of a shut down of the tap water system in Alamosa, Colorado where the water system continues to undergo chlorine flushing to purify the system.

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