Salmonella’s ‘fingerprint’ could be clue to its source
Source of Article: http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2009/03/01/peanutstrain_salmonella_0301.html
Sunday, March 01, 2009
unusual strain of salmonella with a distinctive “fingerprint” caused the 2007
recall of a popular brand of peanut butter made in
Two years later that unique fingerprint is back.
For all the latest
developments on the peanut crisis and the salmonella outbreak,
with an updated list of recalled items, plus background on the scare, go to
the AJC's special report: ajc.com/peanuts.
· Go to www.fda.gov
· Call 1-800-CDC-INFO
· Recall lists, background and latest headlines at ajc.com/ peanuts
· Major brands of jarred peanut butter are not in the recall
A BRIEF GUIDE TO SALMONELLA STRAINS
One of the most common strains of
salmonella causing disease in the
· Bacteria with a specific genetic "fingerprint" of this strain have been found in the bodies of more than 660 people sickened in the outbreak who ate peanut products from the Blakely plant.
· A less common strain.
· Bacteria of this strain with a specific genetic fingerprint caused an outbreak in 2006-07 that sickened people who ate peanut butter made at a ConAgra plant in Sylvester.
Recent tests by the
Although the strain can make people sick,
no illnesses linked to Peanut Corp.'s products have so far involved the
· Detected in samples of creamy peanut butter, peanut meal and chopped peanuts made at the Blakely plant in August and September 2008.
Salmonella strains Mbandaka and Senftenberg
· Detected in swab tests inside the Blakely plant examined by the FDA in January.
Sources: AJC research, FDA inspection report
time it’s in some peanut butter produced by the Peanut Corporation of
Federal investigators say the link has caught their attention as they look toward peanut hullers and possibly farms for how several strains of salmonella got into the Blakely plant.
peanuts grown in
officials said raw peanuts from
The two outbreaks raise questions about whether peanut farmers need to change their agricultural practices to reduce bacteria on their crops — just as dairy farmers do with raw milk, even though it will be pasteurized to make it safe.
general impression is that salmonella doesn’t start in a [manufacturing]
plant. It comes in on something or with something,” said Dr. Robert Tauxe, a top food safety official at the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in
“How salmonella might be introduced in a plant might include coming in on raw peanuts, wild birds perching on a roof or other things that might come into or around the plant environment,” Tauxe said.
Georgia Peanut Commission, which represents
“It’s not a grower issue, it’s an industry issue,” said Don Koehler, the peanut commission’s executive director.
Oscar Garrison, assistant commissioner in the Agriculture Department’s consumer protection division, said food processing plants are expected to make peanuts safe with proper roasting to kill any bacteria. They also must use good sanitation practices, he said.
The department — which is responsible for inspecting food plants and promoting Georgia agriculture — is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to trace how the Blakely plant and its products became contaminated.
After the outbreak was traced to the Blakely plant, inspectors found numerous sanitation problems, including salmonella on surfaces inside the plant.
The FDA is examining peanut shelling operations that supplied raw peanuts to the Blakely plant, an official with the agency said. Depending on what they find, they’ll look at farms that supplied peanuts to the shellers.
Officials with the American Peanut Shellers Association and two shelling operations in Blakely — Universal Blanchers and Birdsong Peanuts — did not respond to interview requests.
The FDA has identified several strains of disease-causing salmonella in the Blakely plant and its products. A strain called Typhimurium is the one linked to more than 660 illnesses and nine deaths across the country.
“Oftentimes these investigations are inconclusive and we can’t find the smoking peanut,” said an FDA official, who asked not to be identified because the investigation is ongoing.
But experts at the FDA and the CDC said they are intrigued by an unusual clue.
Two years ago the ConAgra plant in Sylvester launched a nationwide recall of Peter Pan peanut butter after consumers were sickened by a less common strain of the bacteria, called Salmonella Tennessee. It had a unique genetic fingerprint.
22, tests by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture found salmonella with
that same genetic fingerprint in an unopened 5-pound container of King Nut
peanut butter produced late last year at the Blakely plant.
officials concluded raw peanuts and raw peanut dust were the most likely
source of the
When the plant’s roof leaked and a sprinkler system malfunctioned, the company believes water activated salmonella bacteria brought in on raw peanuts and their dust, spreading contamination to peanut butter.
That conclusion prompted ConAgra to spend $33 million to redesign its operations, Childs said. Now employees work on the finished-product side of the plant or in the raw-peanut area, but not both, Childs said. ConAgra’s raw-peanut area has a separate air-handling system to keep contaminated dust away from finished peanut butter.
hundreds sickened between the two outbreaks, nobody appears to know what
percentage of raw
The American Peanut Council is seeking answers to those questions with a study set to begin in April; results are expected in 18 months.
Council President Patrick Archer said the peanut industry uses farming practices intended to minimize contamination, such as cleaning equipment to lessen mold and bacterial growth.
food safety experts questioned whether the peanut industry is aware some
farming practices may increase the risk of salmonella contamination. Only one
impression is the farmers really don’t have good agricultural practices,”
said Michael Doyle, who has served as a consultant for ConAgra and the
American Peanut Council. Doyle is director of the Center for Food Safety at
When peanuts are roasted, Doyle said, the focus may be more on achieving the right flavor rather than on safety. If salmonella is present in very large numbers, the roaster may not kill all of it, he said.
said he recently got a call from a peanut industry adviser in
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