National salmonella death toll rises to 7

Source of Article:,0,5876138.story

STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS; Staff writer Ridgely Ochs contributed to this story.

January 24, 2009

A seventh death was linked Friday to a nationwide outbreak of salmonella associated with tainted peanut butter and paste sourced to the Peanut Corp. of America's plant in Blakely, Ga., authorities confirmed.

Although their exact causes of death have not been determined, all seven people have died after being infected with the bacterial strain Salmonella Typhimurium, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its Web site. A spokesman confirmed there have now been three deaths in Minnesota, two in Virginia and one each in North Carolina and Idaho.

In New York, an Erie County resident has been added to the list of those infected, bringing to 19 the number known to have been sickened in the state so far, said Beth Goldberg, a state Department of Health spokeswoman. All the New York cases occurred between Sept. 28 and Dec. 25, 2008, she said, with the ages of those afflicted ranging from 2 to 68. Three of those cases have been on Long Island.

There have been 493 cases reported in 43 states and one Canadian province of people sickened, though authorities stress the numbers sickened are likely far in excess of that as many cases go unreported. Known patients ranged in age from 1 to 98, and 22 percent of the those have been hospitalized. The most recent known onset of reported illness was Jan. 8.

Another 10 firms Friday recalled products that use PCA peanut butter or paste - bringing to roughly 360 the number of products affected - as it emerged that the plant at the center of the probe laid off most of its roughly 50 workers.

PCA president Stewart Parnell confirmed the layoffs Friday through a public relations firm and it was unclear when the plant would be running again and whether the workers will be brought back. Recalled products range from snack bars to ice cream to even pet food.

While PCA is a relatively small supplier on the national scene, its peanut products are supplied in bulk direct to private food labels and manufacturers, as well as institutions such as nursing homes and schools. Health officials are focusing on 30 companies out of a total of 85 that received peanut products from the Georgia plant.

The outbreak has triggered a congressional inquiry and renewed calls for reform of food safety laws.

- Staff writer Ridgely Ochs contributed to this story.



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