Since September 8, 2008, there has been an outbreak of persons becoming ill from Salmonella.  The last report we found was there had been 7 deaths and almost 500 persons sickened.  A news release January 23 reported that the sole source of the bacteria is from Peanut Corporation of America, in Blakely, Georgia.  PCA distributes peanut butter and paste in bulk to manufacturers for cakes, candies, crackers, cookies, and ice cream.  Employees of the company have been laid off while the Food and Drug Administration conducts a complete investigation.  Three managers of the company have remained to assist the investigators.  It is unknown if all employees will return once the investigation is done.

Salmonella causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after eating contaminated food.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, most people recover without treatment.  However, elderly persons, infants, and those with improper immune systems are more likely to develop severe illness.  Salmonella may spread from intestines to bloodstream, then to other body sites, and can cause death unless the person is treated promptly with antibiotics.

Dr. Stephen Sundlof is the Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.  He states that it is not the consumer’s responsibility to ensure the products they purchase are safe; the food industry is the responsible party for ensuring the safety of the products.

It is reported that the ready-to-eat type products are the ones causing concern.  Even some pet foods are affected.  If you are unsure of the contents of your jar of peanut butter, call the toll-free number on the label.  You may check the USFDA website, and many others, for a complete list of products that have been recalled.  Recalled products can be found by searching by brand name, UPC Code, description, or any combination of these.