Sunday, January 18, 2009

Peanut Recall Georgia Based

So far, this salmonella outbreak seems to be limited to the United States. However, as we know from other outbreaks and product tampering, it’s amazing how far these products can travel in our tiny global village. Let’s not assume that it will not travel elsewhere.

Peanuts are the problem this time (again). In February 2007, ConAgra Foods, Inc., Omaha NB, recalled its Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter brands after more than 625 people in 47 states were sickened. The outbreak was traced to ConAgra’s Sylvester, GA, plant where a leaky roof and faulty sprinkler system were found to be the culprits.

Salmonella likes moisture and the roof and sprinkler system allowed low levels of dormant salmonella to grow that most likely had been present in the raw peanuts or peanut dust.

ConAgra upgraded the facility and peanut butter was returned to store shelves for sale to the public in August 2007.

Federal food safety inspectors are once again focusing on a peanut-processing plant in Georgia for a salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 434 people in 43 states and is suspected in contributing to five deaths.

This time the plant owned by Peanut Corp. of America (PCA); located in Blakely, GA; makes peanut butter for institutional use.

Peanut Corp. of America, which owns the plant in Blakely, Ga., said it has recalled products made at the plant after June 30. The company, based in Lynchburg, Va., said it is withdrawing 21 lots of its peanut butter, in containers ranging from five to 50 pounds, as a precautionary measure.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman said inspectors have been doing everything possible to see where the products were shipped. "At this time," he said, "only one PCA plant is involved -- the Georgia plant."

To their credit, Peanut Corp. of America recalled the peanut butter Tuesday after the CDC identified it as a likely source of the outbreak. The company sells bulk peanut butter under the brand names King Nut and Parnell’s Pride which are sold to schools, hospitals and nursing homes; but; are not available in any grocery stores. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman said USDA didn’t buy any of the recalled peanut butter for the National School Lunch Program or other Food Distribution Program.

Peanut Corp. of America said it's working closely with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reported Wednesday that there have been clusters of Salmonella infections in schools, long-term care facilities, hospitals and other institutions.

"Farmers don't like seeing something like this because it causes confusion. This is not an issue of tracking it back to the farm, because there's no organism that can survive the heat of roasting," said Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission, a group representing 5,000 peanut growers in the country's largest peanut producing state.

Kellogg Co. put a hold on sales of its Austin and Keebler-branded Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Crackers, Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Sandwich Crackers as a precautionary measure while the Food and Drug Administration investigates salmonella contamination involving a manufacturer of peanut butter and peanut paste. An article published Wednesday afternoon on incorrectly said that Kellogg had placed a hold on peanut-butter sandwich cookies as well as crackers.

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