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Peanut Butter Salmonella Poisoning
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Scientists seek source of tainted peanut butter

Feb 17, 2007 | AP Government and company scientists scoured one of the nation's largest peanut-butter plants Friday, trying to learn how salmonella got into batches of the spread.

Out of the scientists' way, about 40 workers did maintenance work at the ConAgra Foods plant, spokesman Chris Kircher said. No jars of peanut butter rolled off the lines at the shuttered plant, though.

The plant has been shut down since Wednesday, when federal health officials linked its peanut butter Peter Pan brand and certain batches of Wal-Mart's Great Value house brand to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened about 300 people nationwide since August. No deaths have been reported.

It was unclear how the dangerous germ that commonly originates from the feces of birds and animals got into the peanut butter.

Government and industry officials said the contamination may have been caused by dirty jars or equipment. Peanuts are usually heated to high, germ-killing temperatures during the manufacturing process.

Meanwhile, a couple sued ConAgra Foods Inc. on Friday over the salmonella outbreak, and their attorney said more suits will follow.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., by Susanna and Brian Cox of St. Joseph. The suit claims that Susanna Cox and the couple's two children developed gastrointestinal illnesses in October after eating Great Value Peanut Butter, made by ConAgra. The two children required urgent medical treatment, according to the lawsuit.

The Coxes seek unspecified damages.

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