First Florida salmonella poisoning linked to peanut plant reported


Palm Beach Post • February 5, 2009

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A North Florida resident has been diagnosed with salmonella poisoning linked to a nationwide outbreak, the state Department of Health reported late Wednesday.

A resident of Bradford County was briefly hospitalized after showing symptoms of infection with the salmonella bacteria. The bacteria matched the DNA "fingerprint" of Salmonella Typhimuirium, which has been traced to products produced by a Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely, Ga.

Florida becomes the 44th state with an illness linked to the bug, which has sickened more than 550 people and killed eight, according to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, the number of recalled peanut products is approaching 1,100 in what independent experts said appears to be a record for foods consumed by humans.

Brand-name peanut butter in jars is believed to be safe. But a host of foods not commonly associated with peanut products, such as brownies, dog biscuits and even chicken breasts, are on the burgeoning recall list because they may contain such products as peanut paste.

It is not known which product the Florida victim consumed.

In Washington, lawmakers vowed to press for stronger food safety laws and more money for inspections. "There is an openness to putting together the strongest legislation possible," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

Democrats are dusting off legislation that went nowhere last year and are hoping for better luck under President Obama, who has criticized the FDA's handling of the outbreak.

At least four major bills to reform the food safety system have been introduced or will be soon. All would give the FDA authority to order recalls, which are now voluntary.

The FDA had to invoke bioterrorism laws to get testing records from Peanut Corp. of America.

"I expect that food poisoning will never go away, but there's so many things that could be done better," said Jeff Almer of Savage, Minn., whose mother, Shirley Mae Almer, died. Almer has sued Peanut Corp. of America.

Florida Department of Health spokeswoman Susan Smith said the Bradford County case appears to be an isolated incident, though diagnosis can be tricky.

"Unless you go to a doctor and get diagnosed and a sample is taken where they can isolate the organism, you don't have a confirmed diagnosis," said Tim O'Connor, Palm Beach County Health Department spokesman.

Further, the CDC states that for every reported case of salmonella, another 38 cases go unreported.

"We are taking this very seriously," Smith said. "Certainly, if anyone who has consumed peanut products feels they are having symptoms, they would need to reach out to their primary care physician."





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