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Salmonella found at Missouri Peanut Butter Plant

Oct 30, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Another  link between Salmonella and peanut butter is making headlines. Food Safety News reports that the East Wind Community Inc., a 36-year-old commune located in the Missouri Ozarks, has an issue with Salmonella in its nut butter manufacturing facility.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), inspectors collected samples from the plant; laboratory analysis revealed the Salmonella pathogen, said Food Safety News. The commune produces a variety of nut products—since the 1980s—including, said Food Safety News, “Almond Butter, Peanut Butter, Organic Peanut Butter, Roasted Peanuts, Cashew Butter, Tahini, and Organic Tahini.”

The FDA sent a Warning Letter to East Wind early this month saying it considers East Wind products to be adulterated since the products were "prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby [they] may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby [they] may have been rendered injurious to health," reported Health Safety News, quoting the FDA letter. The agency noted that samples taken from seven locations in two production lines tested positive for the dangerous, sometimes deadly, Salmonella pathogen. Two different Salmonella serotypes were identified: S. Java and S. Newport, said Food Safety News. Five of the six strains that tested as S. Newport had the same Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns, Food Safety News added.

"This is significant because these five samples were located in five different locations in both production rooms indicating that S. Newport may have been transported throughout your production areas and established niche areas of colonize," FDA's Kansas City District Director John W. Thorsky said in the letter, quoted Food Safety News. Also one of the S. Newport serotypes was discovered in an area near where caps are placed to seal open containers of the food product.  "This close proximity increases the potential of contamination of the product with Salmonella," Thorsky added. The FDA’s letter urges East Wind to take "prompt and aggressive actions to eliminate the Salmonella contamination addressed in this letter."

"Bacteria may enter and/or be transported through a food plant by a variety of routes that include, but are not limited to: roof leaks; the shoes of employees, contractors, and visitors; the wheels of fork lifts, pallet movers, and moveable equipment; soiled pallets; soiled raw material packaging; on raw ingredients, particularly peanuts, tree nuts, and cocoa beans; and rodent vectors," added the FDA in its letter. "Once established on production area floors, the organism can contaminate food and food-contact surfaces either through human or mechanical means," the letter continued.

Salmonella, which is usually found in food contaminated with animal feces, is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstance, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis. Salmonella poisoning can lead to Reiter’s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination.

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