The real impact of the Salmonella outbreak

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According to an article in USA Today, with the number of recalled products linked to the current Salmonella outbreak jumping to 1,700, it’s likely that the health risks may reach far beyond the 538 reported illnesses. In fact, according to previous research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for each case of salmonellosis that is reported, more than 38 other people get sick. This could mean that the outbreak is responsible for more than 20,000 illnesses.

In addition, the large number of recalled products is having an effect on consumers’ purchasing behavior. It seems that some consumers are avoiding all peanut butter products, including jarred peanut butter, even though leading brands have not been affected by the outbreak. According to an article in Daily Press, figures from The Nielsen Co. report that jarred peanut butter sales during the four weeks ending Jan. 24 dropped 22% from the same period the previous year. To fight the sales slump, the makers of Jif and Peter Pan have countered with a costly advertising campaign aimed at reassuring consumers.

The outbreak is also impacting the Food and Drug Administration, as people begin to question the effectiveness of the agency’s food safety measures. It also is a wake-up call to the food industry in general. Any manufacturer who produces products containing nut butter is questioning the “kill step”—the step that kills Salmonella bacteria—in their manufacturing processes. “If there’s anybody out there in the industry who’s manufacturing nuts or nut butter of any kind, they really need to get on the stick and study the thermal processes they’re using and document that it’s effective against Salmonella,” said Donald Schaffner, Food Microbiologist and Member of the Institute of Food Technologists.

The Peanut Corp. of America (PCA), the origin of the peanut products that contain the Salmonella strain causing the illness, is under a criminal investigation by the FDA and the Justice Dept. A second congressional hearing on the recall is scheduled for Feb. 11. According to the article, the FBI executed search warrants at the PCA plant in Georgia and the Lynchburg, Va. headquarters on Feb. 9.

USA Today article

Daily Press article



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