• JANUARY 11, 2009, 10:08 P.M. ET

Peanut Butter Suspected In Salmonella Outbreak

Source of Article:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123172133257172179.html?mod=googlenews_wsj



An Ohio company recalled its creamy peanut butter after Minnesota health authorities identified the sandwich spread as the likely source of a wave of salmonella infections in the state.

Minnesota investigators found that every one of the 30 people with recent salmonella infections in that state had eaten peanut butter before falling ill, and confirmed in the "overwhelming majority" of those cases that the victims had eaten King Nut brand, according to state Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz. The Minnesota salmonella strain matches the bacteria that have sickened at least 369 people in 41 other states since early September, although Minnesota authorities haven't connected the peanut butter to the national outbreak.

Minnesota officials, who are working with the federal Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, expect further test results as early as Monday. CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell identified peanut butter as "one of the major hypotheses" for the source of the outbreak.

Martin Kanan, chief executive of King Nut Cos., Solon, Ohio, which issued the recall, said in a release, "We are very sorry this happened. We are taking immediate and voluntary action because the health and safety of those who use our products is always our highest priority."

One salmonella-infected Minnesota woman in her 70s died. State health authorities are unsure whether other medical conditions caused or contributed to her death, Mr. Schultz said.

King Nut said it had purchased the peanut butter from Peanut Corp. of America of Lynchburg, Va., and sold it under the King Nut and Parnell's Pride brands. King Nut distributed it to universities, restaurants, hospitals and other institutional food services. The brands aren't sold in retail stores. Investigators discovered the salmonella in a five-pound container of King Nut-labeled peanut butter at a nursing home. All of the Minnesota cases occurred in people who had eaten at institutional facilities, Mr. Schultz said.

Peanut Corp. of America issued a statement expressing its "deep regret" over the "apparent finding" of salmonella in its product. But the company said the contamination was in an open container "in a large, institutional kitchen," raising the possibility of cross-contamination.



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