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1/29
2009
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FDA Recall of Products Containing Peanut Butter:
Salmonella Typhimurium
Updated: January 29, 2009

Peanut butter facility knowingly released Salmonella-tainted product
Source of Article: http://members.ift.org/IFT/Pubs/Newsletters/weekly/nl_012809.htm

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a media teleconference on Jan. 27 to update consumers on the Salmonella typhimurium outbreak in peanut butter products. According to Stephen Sundlof, Director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA, the agency has concluded its investigation of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) facility in Blakely, Ga. This is the plant that the FDA has determined to be the source of the current Salmonella outbreak. That inspection was initiated on Jan. 9, 2009, and the inspection team included FDA investigators, FDA microbiologists, as well as representatives from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
At the conclusion of the inspection, a FDA 483, which is a list of deficiencies observed by the inspection team at the facility, was issued to PCA that identifies a number of good manufacturing deficiencies associated with the firm's manufacturing process. Specifically, the team identified approximately 12 instances in 2007 and 2008 where the firm, as part of their own internal testing program, identified some type of Salmonella and released a product after it was retested, in some case by a different laboratory. The inspection also identified a number of deficiencies related to the firm¡¯s cleaning programs and procedures for their manufacturing equipment as well as failure to take steps to mitigate Salmonella contamination or crop contamination in the facility. Finally, the inspection revealed environmental samples that were collected during the inspection that tested positive for Salmonella.

During the teleconference, the FDA and CDC reassured the press and public that the FDA, along with its State counterparts, has visited nearly 1,000 firms who purchased products originating from PCA to facilitate the recall of products. The FDA continues to work with CDC, State Officials, and PCA to test additional peanut-containing products, track additional distribution sources, and review distribution records. So far there are 501 persons from 43 states and one additional person in Canada that have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella typhimurium; of these, 108 or 22% were hospitalized because of the illness and eight deaths have been reported that may be associated with the outbreak. According to Robert Tauxe, Deputy Director, Division of Foodborne Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, CDC, the outbreak appears to be ongoing and the numbers of new cases have decreased modestly.

FDA reports filthy conditions at peanut plant
Source of Article: http://www.newsday.com/
BY DELTHIA RICKS 4:10 PM EST, January 28, 2009
Inspectors investigating the Georgia peanut-processing plant at the center of the nationwide salmonella outbreak found cockroaches, slimy residue on a conveyor belt and mold colonizing the plant's ceilings and walls, a federal report shows.
Blatant violations of food safety practices were evident throughout the Peanut Corporation for America's Blakely, Ga., plant, which shipped peanut butter to companies nationwide for ready-to-eat products.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors, at the plant over the course of 18 days, noted precautions to "protect food and food contact surfaces from contamination with microorganisms [could not] be taken because of deficiencies in plant construction and design."
For example, mops, used for scrubbing floors -- known to have salmonella in their cracks -- were washed in the same sinks as utensils used for making peanut butter.

FDA Form 483 Inspection of Peanut Corporation of America- A Company Out of Control
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
Bottom line is that we are amending the complaint in the first filed civil case in Federal Court in Georgia to add a claim for Punitive Damages. Even the "American Peanut Council (APC) expressed its shock and dismay at findings that report the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) knowingly released a product with potential salmonella contamination into the food supply....The findings of the FDA report can only be seen as a clear and unconscionable action of one irresponsible manufacturer."

Peanut Plant Knew of Contamination, Officials Say
Source of Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/28/us/29Peanut.htmlhp
By GARDINER HARRIS Published: January 28, 2009
The Georgia peanut plant linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has killed eight people and sickened more than 500 knew on at least 12 occasions over the past two years that its product was contaminated but sold it anyway, according to federal officials.
Officials from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the outbreak to Peanut Corporation of America¡¯s plant in Blakely, Ga. And on Jan. 9, investigators descended on the plant for a thorough inspection.
Michael Rogers, director of the division of filed investigations at the F.D.A., said that the inspectional team found records showing that on at least 12 occasions between 2007 and 2008, the company¡¯s own tests of its product ¡°identified some type of salmonella and released a product after it was retested, in some cases by a different laboratory.¡±
Mr. Rogers said the positive test results should have led the company to take actions to eliminate the contamination. ¡°It¡¯s significant because, at the point at which salmonella was identified, it shouldn¡¯t be there, based on the manufacturing process that¡¯s designed to mitigate salmonella, actually eliminate it.¡±
The firm took no steps to clean its plant after the test results alerted the company to the contamination, and the inspection team found problems with the plant¡¯s routine cleaning procedures as well, Mr. Rogers said.
Retesting contaminated product until it tests clean and then selling that product is not appropriate, according to agency officials. ¡°This is a practice that the firm should not have engaged in,¡± Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the agency¡¯s food center said on Tuesday.
Calls to the Peanut Corporation on Wednesday were not immediately returned. But in a statement to reporters, George Clarke, a spokesman for the company, said it ¡°has cooperated fully with F.D.A. from Day 1 during the course of this investigation.¡± He added, ¡°We have shared with them every record that they have asked for that is in our possession, and we will continue to do so.¡±
More than 100 children under the age of 5 have been sickened, and illnesses have been reported in at least 43 states, said Dr. Robert Tauze, deputy director of the Division of Food Borne Bacteria and Mycotic Diseases at the disease centers. Figures from the centers indicate that Ohio, California, Massachusetts, Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota have reported the most cases.
The company¡¯s peanut products are used primarily at institutions like schools and nursing homes and as ingredients in commercial snack products. As of Wednesday, more than 125 products have been recalled.
The plant where the contamination was discovered, located in the southwestern corner of Georgia, has a history of sanitation lapses. Inspection reports provided to The New York Times by Georgia officials indicated this week that the company was cited on numerous occasions in 2006 and 2007 for having dirty surfaces and dirt buildup throughout its plants. It was found to be in violation of cleanliness standards in 2008 as well.
Inspections by the State Agriculture Department found areas of rust that could flake into food, gaps in warehouse doors large enough for rodents to get through, unmarked spray bottles and containers and numerous violations of other practices designed to prevent food contamination. The plant was recently shut down.
A typical entry from an inspection report, dated Aug. 23, 2007, said: ¡°The food-contact surfaces of re-work kettle in the butter room department were not properly cleaned and sanitized.¡± Another entry noted: ¡°The food-contact surfaces of the bulk oil roast transfer belt¡± in a particular room ¡°were not properly cleaned and sanitized. The food-contact surfaces of pan without wheels in the blanching department were not properly cleaned and sanitized.¡±
A code violation in the same report observed ¡°clean peanut butter buckets stored uncovered,¡± while another cited a ¡°wiping cloth¡± to ¡°cover crack on surge bin.¡± Tests on samples gathered on the day of that inspection were negative for salmonella.
Two inspection reports from 2008 found the plant to be out of compliance with practices for making sure ¡°food and non-food contact surfaces were cleanable, properly designed, constructed and used.¡±
The state performs the inspections on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration as part of a contractual agreement with the federal agency, officials said.
Anahad O¡¯Connor and Roni Caryn Rabin contributed reporting.

Officials call for criminal probe into salmonella recall
Source of Article: http://www.usatoday.com/
From staff and wire reports
Senior congressional and state officials called Wednesday for a federal probe of possible criminal violations at a Georgia peanut processing plant linked to the nationwide salmonella outbreak.
The government Tuesday accused the peanut butter manufacturer Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) of shipping products in 2007 and 2008 after internal tests found bacterial contamination, violating food safety regulations.
The company's actions "can only be described as reprehensible and criminal," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who oversees Food and Drug Administration funding. "Not only did this company knowingly sell tainted products, it shopped for a laboratory that would provide the acceptable results they were seeking. This behavior represents the worst of our current food safety regulatory system."
In Georgia, the state's top agriculture official joined DeLauro in asking the Justice Department to determine if the case warrants criminal prosecution.
"They tried to hide it so they could sell it," said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin. "Now they've caused a mammoth problem that could destroy their company ? and it could destroy the peanut industry."
There was no immediate response from Peanut Corp., which owns the Blakely, Ga., processing plant at the center of the investigation. The company has previously said it fully cooperated with the salmonella investigation.
Irvin, the Georgia agriculture official, said he was outraged by the company's actions and said a state criminal probe was possible. He would not, however, specify which Georgia laws the company may have violated for fear it would help the company start planning its defense.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers were drafting a plan to require food makers to report the results of internal inspections to state officials, something the peanut plant in Blakely wasn't required to do.
Peanut butter and peanut paste manufactured by Peanut Corp. has been tied to the salmonella outbreak that has sickened 501 people in 43 states and is believed to have contributed to eight deaths.
The FDA said that its inspection of the plant found records of 12 instances in which plant officials identified salmonella in ingredients or finished products. The products should not have been shipped, the FDA says. PCA took no steps to address cleaning after finding the salmonella, says Michael Rogers, director of the FDA's division of field investigations.
In some instances, the company had the product tested again by a different laboratory and got a clean test result, FDA officials said in a telephone conference with reporters.

It's quite possible that a retest would miss the salmonella, says Michael Doyle, director of the University of Georgia's Center for Food Safety. The product should have been destroyed after the first positive test result, he says.
This outbreak is hitting children especially hard, says Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control. Half of those stricken are younger than 16, and 21% are under 5, Tauxe says. While PCA's peanut butter was sold in bulk to institutions, its peanut paste has been used as an ingredient in snack foods.
The FDA says it has not found the exact outbreak strain in the plant, but it has been found in tubs of peanut butter made at the plant, considered the sole source of the contamination.
"It's incredibly negligent," says William Hubbard, a former FDA associate commissioner. Hubbard questions why the FDA didn't act sooner, given the sanitation violations found by state inspectors.
Previous inspection reports by the Georgia Department of Agriculture found deficiencies in how well the plant was cleaned.
In a statement issued Tuesday, PCA said it "has cooperated fully with FDA from day one during the course of this investigation. We have shared with them every record that they have asked for that is in our possession, and we will continue to do so."
| Shipping products known to be contaminated is "a violation of the law," says the FDA's Stephen Sundlof. "Whether or not there was any criminal activity involved is a different issue."
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise and Julie Schmit, USA TODAY; Associated Press

FDA and CDC Four Types of Salmonella Found at Peanut Corporation of America
Source of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
According to AP, FDA and CDC officials say four kinds of salmonella have been identified in the growing investigation of tainted peanut products. A congressional official briefed on the investigation said health officials have identified four types of salmonella as they focus on a Georgia facility. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing. Salmonella Typhimurium is the strain that caused the illnesses. Two other strains were found on the floor of the facility and a third in a container of peanut butter from the plant.
Usually, we get one outbreak strain of bacteria as opposed to four in any given outbreak. I would expect this to mean the recall may expand in both in time (going back further into 2008) and scope (amount of product to be recalled).
And, we complain about Chinese food safety?

Peanut Plant Was Cited for Violations
Source of Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/health/27peanuts.html?_r=3&ref=health
By RONI CARYN RABIN Published: January 26, 2009
The plant in Georgia that produced peanut butter tainted by salmonella has a history of sanitation lapses and was cited repeatedly in 2006 and 2007 for having dirty surfaces and grease residue and dirt buildup throughout the plant, according to health inspection reports.
Inspections of the plant in Blakely, Ga., by the State Agriculture Department found areas of rust that could flake into food, gaps in warehouse doors large enough for rodents to get through, unmarked spray bottles and containers and numerous violations of other practices designed to prevent food contamination. The plant, owned by the Peanut Corporation of America of Lynchburg, Va., has been shut down.
A typical entry from an inspection report, dated Aug. 23, 2007, said: ¡°The food-contact surfaces of re-work kettle in the butter room department were not properly cleaned and sanitized.¡± Additional entries noted: ¡°The food-contact surfaces of the bulk oil roast transfer belt¡± in a particular room ¡°were not properly cleaned and sanitized. The food-contact surfaces of pan without wheels in the blanching department were not properly cleaned and sanitized.¡±
A code violation in the same report observed ¡°clean peanut butter buckets stored uncovered,¡± while another cited a ¡°wiping cloth¡± to ¡°cover crack on surge bin.¡± Tests on samples gathered on the day of that inspection were negative for salmonella.
At a later inspection, on Dec. 14, 2007, no violations were noted, but the report said the plant was ¡°shut down for cleaning.¡±
The inspection reports were provided by Georgia officials in response to a request made by The New York Times under the state¡¯s open-records act.
State officials said they could not release two recent inspection reports from 2008 because of the continuing investigation into the plant. The state performs the inspections on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration as part of a contractual agreement with the federal agency, the officials said.
Representatives of the Peanut Corporation of America did not respond to requests for comment.
The salmonella outbreak has sickened almost 500 people around the country and is linked to seven deaths. More than 125 products containing peanut butter or peanut paste from the Georgia plant have been recalled.

National salmonella death toll rises to 7
Source of Article: http://www.newsday.com/services
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.

Peanut butter food poisoning cases top 500
Source of Article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28864316/
List of recalled cookies, cakes and other treats continues to expand
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 6:39 p.m. PT, Mon., Jan. 26, 2009
Confirmed cases of salmonella infection linked to tainted peanut butter continue to grow, rising to 501 in 43 states, according to latest figures from federal health officials.
New cases were reported as of late Sunday by states involved in the outbreak, including Arizona, Iowa, New Jersey, New York and Oregon. One ill person has been reported from Canada.
The mounting numbers of foodborne illness have been accompanied by a deluge of recalled cakes, crackers, cookies, ice cream, energy bars and more from dozens of manufacturers and retailers who bought peanut butter and peanut paste products from a Blakely, Ga., commercial processing facility.
Even companies not linked to the tainted products made at the Peanut Corp. of America plant have pulled peanut butter foods to assuage worried consumers. On Monday, Starbucks Corp. announced it removed all peanut butter treats from stores in the U.S. and Canada.
To help consumers, the Food and Drug Administration has set up a searchable list of recalled peanut products on its Web site. No major brands of peanut butter sold in jars have been implicated.
Peanut butter is not normally thought of as a high-risk product for salmonella infection. The bacteria, a frequent source of food poisoning, are supposed to be killed off in the roasting process. Officials say the bacteria remain dormant in the peanut butter until eaten, when they start growing and cause infection.
Originally the problem appeared limited to peanut butter shipped in big tubs to institutional customers such as nursing homes. But then peanut paste was implicated. Made from ground roasted peanuts, it is used as an ingredient in dozens of other products sold directly to consumers.
Investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are continuing to look for a precise source of the contamination, a spokeswoman said.

For first time, trace amount of mercury found in corn syrup
(Minneapolis Star Tribune, MN) By MATT McKINNEY
A test of popular processed foods from some of the biggest names in the industry found trace amounts of mercury, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a nonprofit group based in Minneapolis.
The amounts of mercury found was far less than that commonly seen in most fish and seafood, but turned up in many foods not previously known to be sources of mercury, including many preferred by children, the group said. It includes Nutri-Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars, Quaker Oatmeal to go bars, Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, Yoplait Strawberry yogurt, Market Pantry Grape Jelly and Coca-Cola, it said.
"This seems like an avoidable source of mercury that we didn't know was out there," said David Wallinga, one of the study's co-authors.
The study concluded that the mercury came from food plants that use caustic soda laced with mercury to produce high fructose corn syrup for major food companies. The researchers cautioned that their study was limited. It tested 55 consumer items, finding mercury in one third of the samples ranging from 30 to 350 parts per trillion. A part per trillion is the rough equivalent of a drop of water in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Several companies named in the IATP report defended their products Monday, pointing to the very low levels of mercury detected. "You would have to eat more than 100 pounds of ketchup each day to even come close to reaching the EPA's safe exposure level," said ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs.
A spokesman for General Mills challenged the science behind the report, saying it didn't identify which form of mercury was detected and that parts per trillion of mercury can be found in water, soil and plant and animal tissue. "To suggest a safety concern on the basis of this study is irresponsible," said Tom Forsythe, a spokesman.
A group representing the high fructose corn syrup industry said food plants no longer use the mercury-containing ingredients that caused contamination in the past, adding that four-year-old samples were cited in an academic paper that was released in tandem with the IATP report.
"This study appears to be based on outdated information of dubious significance," said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association.
The IATP, however, said four plants in Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio and West Virginia still use the "mercury-cell" technology that leads to contamination. A fifth plant in Wisconsin has begun converting its plant to use mercury-free agents.
The report was published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health. Lead author Renee Dufault, a former Food and Drug Administration scientist, said she presented findings about mercury in processed food to the FDA after preliminary testing in 2005.
"Environmental mercury exposure via food, water and air is a threat to sensitive populations -- those who may not be able to effectively metabolize mercury (autistic children and the elderly). Sensitive populations may be bioaccumulating mercury and this leads to neurological effects," she said in an email.
An FDA spokesman said the agency was overwhelmed with the peanut butter salmonella scare and could not respond immediately to this issue.
The mercury findings, while potentially alarming, should be viewed in context, said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The report found 300 parts per trillion of mercury in Jack Daniel's Barbecue Sauce, but that's still 30 to 3,000 times less than the amount of mercury found in fish and seafood."I suspect people eat more fish than barbecue sauce," he said.
The type of mercury commonly found in fish and seafood is methyl mercury, and its effects are known to be toxic, but the type of mercury found in the packaged foods is not yet known, the report's authors said.
Heavy metal contamination in the food chain of industrialized nations is not uncommon. A 2004 study by the World Health Organization found an average adult consumes 100 micrograms of mercury per week in Portugal, and more than 50 micrograms per week in Italy, Germany and France. 1-26-09

Sampling of Low Production Volume Raw Ground Beef Establishments for Salmonella and Escherichia Coli O157:H7 - USDA

Consumer Alert: Keeping Food Safe During An Emergency

D.C. Department of Health Confirms: Norovirus Back at CUA
Source of Article: http://blogs.cuatower.com/2009/01/26/norovirus/

Norovirus, which spread across campus in December 2006, is back according to an e-mail from the CUA Office of Public Affairs.

Today, D.C.¡¯s Department of Health told Catholic University¡¯s Student Health Services that initial tests confirmed the illnesses were caused by the virus. The first student was treated on the evening of Jan. 21, and 23 students have reported symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The University has focused additional cleaning efforts on buildings frequented by students, and Dining Services has implemented a series of precautionary measures, according to the e-mail.

¡°While all the known instances of the illness have occurred among the student population, all members of the campus community are asked to be attentive to this outbreak and to follow recommendations for containing it,¡± said the e-mail. ¡°In particular, we would like to remind all students to be vigilant about hand washing, to not share eating utensils, and to refrain from group activities, if they are ill.¡±

In Dec. 2006, 130 Catholic University students fell ill during exam week because of the virus. The District of Columbia¡¯s Department of Health (DOH) found no specific cause or source of the Norovirus outbreak, but found that the risk factors for becoming ill included living in the dorms, eating in the student cafeteria and using the on-campus computer labs.

Two separate food inspectors with the DOH found several critical violations on Dec. 12, 2006, which required correction within five days. Such violations included improper glove and hair restraint, poor hand-washing, unclean food utensils and equipment, and the presence of fruit flies.
While the food preparation area violations were ¡°not egregious,¡± the University fixed them and in addition, has spent thousands of dollars on new equipment and training for custodial staff.
On Dec. 13, 2006, four food samples were taken from the cafeteria: the jerk chicken, Caribbean chicken, rice and beans and sausage. Bacteria cultures of these samples tested negative for growth. At the recommendation of the DOH, the University instituted a mass cleaning of the campus using dilute bleach on Dec. 14, 2006.

The DOH recommended increasing the availability of alcohol-based hand cleaning gels in the cafeteria. The University was working on placing the dispensers in computer labs and other common areas and encouraging students to wash their hands frequently.

The Jan. 26, 2009 e-mail from Victor Nakas:

The District of Columbia Department of Health informed Catholic University Student Health Services this afternoon that initial test results indicate that the recent gastrointestinal illness being experienced by some CUA students is caused by norovirus. Since the first student was treated late in the evening on Jan. 21, 23 students have reported symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

While all the known instances of the illness have occurred among the student population, all members of the campus community are asked to be attentive to this outbreak and to follow recommendations for containing it that are outlined in the Web sites indicated at the end of this message. In particular, we would like to remind all students to be vigilant about hand washing, to not share eating utensils, and to refrain from group activities, if they are ill.

Since last Thursday, Jan. 22, the university¡¯s Custodial and Special Event Services staff have focused additional cleaning and sanitization efforts on targeted buildings frequented by students. CUA¡¯s Dining Services has also implemented a series of precautionary sanitization measures.

Students who develop symptoms are advised to follow the suggestions on the Student Health Services Web site at http://health.cua.edu/selfhelp/Nausea.cfm or call Student Health Services at 202-319-5744 to make an appointment. If you are experiencing extreme dizziness, lightheadedness, increased abdominal pain, or blood in the vomit or stool, you may need to be seen in the emergency room. Please call Student Health Services between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. before heading to the emergency room. When Student Health Services is closed, an on-call physician is available for consultation by calling 202-269-7000. Calling the after-hour physician is always recommended before heading directly to the emergency room. The operator will take your information and have the doctor call you.

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