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Minn. Confirms Tainted Peanut Butter Link to Salmonella Outbreak

Health officials report genetic match; Ohio distributor recalls two King Nut brands; almost 400 in 42 states sickened

MONDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Lab tests on a tainted tub of peanut butter produced a genetic match to the strain of salmonella that has sickened almost 400 people across the United States, Minnesota health officials reported Monday.

The health report, issued on the Minnesota Department of Health Web site, was a follow-up to initial tests done last week on salmonella bacteria found in a five-pound package of King Nut creamy peanut butter that had been collected from a long-term care facility.

Officials from the Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture had issued a product warning Friday after preliminary testing indicated the presence of salmonella in the peanut butter.

Late Saturday, King Nut Cos., of Solon, Ohio, announced it had issued a recall of King Nut peanut butter and Parnell's Pride peanut butter with the lot code "8." Both brands are manufactured by Lynchburg, Va.-based Peanut Corp. of America.

King Nut distributes peanut butter through food service accounts and does not sell it directly to consumers, the company's statement said.

The statement added, "King Nut does not supply any of the ingredients for the peanut butter distributed under its label. All other King Nut products are safe and not included in this voluntary recall."

"We are very sorry this happened," Martin Kanan, president and chief executive officer of King Nut Cos., said in the statement, adding, "We are taking immediate and voluntary action because the health and safety of those who use our products is always our highest priority."

On Sunday, Kanan told the Associated Press that the recall involved 1,000 cases of peanut butter.

Peanut Corp. of America issued its own statement on its Web site late Saturday, confirming the salmonella finding. The statement added, however, that the finding "leaves open the possibility of cross-contamination from another source. PCA is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies to determine whether the current illness outbreak could be at all related to products made in the PCA facility."

U.S. health officials had formed a task force last week to seek the source of the latest outbreak, which began last fall and so far has sickened 399 Americans in 42 states, according to the latest numbers issued Friday by the CDC.

The strain of salmonella 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, said officials with the CDC, who have been investigating the outbreak for several weeks.

Reports of people sickened have occurred between Sept. 3 and Dec. 29, 2008, with most illnesses starting after Oct. 1. About 18 percent of those who fell ill were hospitalized.

The recall and the potential link to the multi-state outbreak come two years after ConAgra recalled its Peter Pan brand peanut butter, which had been linked to at least 625 salmonella cases in 47 states.

More information

To learn more about salmonella, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Jan. 12, 2009, news release, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture; Jan. 10, 2009, statement, King Nut Company, Solon, Ohio; Jan 10, 2009, online statement, Peanut Corporation of America; Associated Press

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