By Steven Reinberg
Sunday, January 18, 2009 12:00 AM
SUNDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to eat peanut butter products containing peanut butter or peanut butter paste, as the recall of products widened Sunday while the salmonella outbreak probe continued.
The U.S. health warning, issued Saturday, focused on products made with peanut butter, like crackers, not jars of peanut butter on store shelves, the agency said.
"We are urging people not to eat products that have peanut butter until we have better information, and they can make an informed choice," Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said at a Saturday teleconference, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The official toll from the outbreak across 43 states and Canada now stands at 470 people sickened, with six deaths that have been linked.
Meanwhile, cereal giant Kellogg recalled 16 products containing peanut butter late Friday. The recall involved 33,000 cases of cookies and 7 million cases of crackers on grocery shelves, according to the Journal-Constitution.
Kellogg's recall included Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers and Keebler and Famous Amos peanut butter cookies.
By Sunday, other companies had joined the recall list, according to the Associated Press.
McKee Foods Corp. of Collegedale, Tenn., recalled Little Debbie Peanut Butter Toasty and Peanut Butter Cheese Sandwich Crackers, which the company said were manufactured by Kellogg.
Hy-Vee Inc., which distributes in several states, recalled various bakery products containing peanut butter. And Perry's Ice Cream announced a voluntary recall of select ice cream products containing peanut butter.
The recalls followed a request late last week from the FDA for salmonella testing by food companies that may have bought peanut butter or peanut paste from a Georgia facility owned by the Peanut Corp. of America.
U.S. health officials late Friday said at least 85 companies had purchased peanut products from the Georgia plant and 30 had been "urged" to run their own tests for the bacteria, the AP reported.
Sundlof told a late Friday teleconference: "We have traced one likely source of salmonella contamination to a plant owned by the Peanut Corp. of America in Georgia, which makes both a brand of peanut butter distributed in bulk to large institutions like nursing homes, and also produces a peanut paste that is distributed to food manufacturers to be used as an ingredient in many products, including cookies, crackers, cereal and ice cream."
Although salmonella was found at the plant, it's not yet known whether it's the same strain behind the outbreak, Sundlof said, adding that testing continues.
Sundlof said the FDA doesn't know all the peanut butter brands or foods containing peanut butter that might be affected. "We don't have specific information about what brands or products consumers should avoid," he said.
But AP, quoting consumer representatives who took part in an earlier-Friday conference call with federal officials, said companies producing products with peanut butter were being asked to consider halting sales.
The concern is that peanut paste is used in dozens of products, from baked goods to cooking sauces. Initially, federal and state investigators had focused on bulk containers of peanut butter sold to institutions such as nursing homes, but not to supermarkets, the AP said.
"Now it turns out, it's not just institutions," said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union.
The strain of salmonella involved with the outbreak has been identified as Salmonella Typhimurium, the most common of the more than 2,500 types of salmonella bacteria in the United States. It's often found in uncooked eggs and meats, officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Although the causes of death haven't been determined, six adults in North Carolina, Minnesota, Idaho and Virginia had salmonella infection when they died. CDC officials said the salmonella outbreak may have contributed to their deaths.
Peanut Corp., based in Lynchburg, Va., issued its own recall Tuesday of 21 lots of peanut butter for possible salmonella contamination. The product was made at the plant in Blakely, Ga., on or after July 1, 2008, and sold under the brand name Parnell's Pride and by the King Nut Company as King Nut, the AP said.
The recall and the potential link to the multi-state outbreak came two years after ConAgra recalled its Peter Pan brand peanut butter, which had been linked to at least 625 salmonella cases in 47 states.
On Sunday, ConAgra issued a notice that none of its products were at risk this time because the company does not buy from Peanut Corp. of America.
Here is a list of the peanut butter products recalled by Kellogg.
SOURCE: Jan. 16, 2009, teleconference with Stephen Sundlof, D.V.M., director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Jan. 14, 2009, news release, Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich.; Jan. 12, 2009, news release, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture; Jan. 12, 2009, news release, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Jan 10, 2009, online statement, Peanut Corp. of America; Associated Press; Atlanta Journal-Constitution