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FDA Widens Peanut Butter-Salmonella Probe
Date:1/16/2009

More companies asked to test products; toll now stands at 452 sick in 43 states and 1 in Canada, and possibly 6 deaths

FRIDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health officials said Friday that they were expanding their investigation into peanut products possibly contaminated with salmonella, as the toll from the outbreak climbed to 452 people sickened in 43 states and one in Canada, and possibly six deaths.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials have asked food companies around the country that may have bought peanut butter or peanut paste from a Georgia facility owned by the Peanut Corp. of America to test their products for salmonella contamination.

The Associated Press reported that federal 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.

Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, told a late afternoon 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.

He added, however, that popular brands of peanut butter found on store shelves don't seem to be affected.

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