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Salmonella Confirmed at PCA Plant. Dozens of Peanut-Containing Foods May be Linked to Nationwide Outbreak

Jan 16, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

Bacteria found at Peanut Corporation of America's (PCA) Georgia factory is salmonella. Although it hasn't yet been linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has sickened over 400 people and killed 6, federal health officials are expanding their probe beyond the bulk peanut butter PCA sold to institutions and food service companies, to a variety of foods that contain peanuts.  According to the Associated Press, PCA supplies peanut products to 85 other food companies.

Peanut butter has been suspected as a source of the salmonella outbreak since last week, when the bacteria was found in an opened 5-pound container of King Nut peanut butter made by PCA.  Early this week, it was confirmed that the salmonella in that container was the outbreak strain.

Since then the King Nut Company has recalled all of its PCA peanut butters, and PCA itself  issued a recall as well. PCA’s peanut butter is sold in bulk to institutional and food service industry use, so it is not found in retail stores.  However, on Tuesday, the  Kellogg Company warned consumers not to consume any Austin® and Keebler® branded peanut butter cracker products because some are made with PCA peanut butter.

With the discovery of salmonella at PCA's Blakely, Georgia plant, the federal probe into the outbreak has taken on new urgency.  According to the Associated Press, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) investigators are focusing on peanut paste, as well as peanut butter. Peanut paste is used in everything from baked goods to cooking sauces. Companies supplied by PCA are being advised to pull their products from store shelves.

For its part, PCA today expanded its voluntary recall to include all peanut butter produced at the Georgia plant since Aug. 8 and all peanut paste produced since Sept. 26.  The company said it is cooperating with the federal investigation, and has closed the Georgia facility while the probe continues.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 453 people in 43 states have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella.  The agency also said an elderly  man from North Carolina died in November from the same salmonella strain, bringing the number of fatalities to six.  Two deaths each were previously reported in Minnesota and Virginia, and another occurred in Idaho.  


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