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Peanut Butter Product Recalls Mount

More companies pull products from shelves as FDA advises consumers not to eat anything but jars of peanut butter while salmonella probe continues

MONDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The drum roll for recalls of peanut butter products continued without letup Monday, as more companies pulled back everything from cookies to candies on store shelves.

The actions followed a U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning Saturday that consumers should avoid peanut butter products containing peanut butter or peanut butter paste while the salmonella outbreak probe continued.

The U.S. health warning is 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.

As of Monday morning, these are the latest recalls:

Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products Inc. of Chicago is recalling all Wal-Mart Bakery brands of peanut butter cookies, peanut butter no-bake cookies and peanut butter fudge no-back cookies.

The South Bend Chocolate Co., of South Bend, Ind., is recalling assorted chocolates, valentine hearts, peanut butter fudge and peanut butter chocolate fudge.

Food Lion has removed Bake Shop peanut butter cookies from its shelves.

McKee Foods Corp. of Collegedale, Tenn., recalled Little Debbie Peanut Butter Toasty and Peanut Butter Cheese Sandwich Crackers.

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.

Late Friday, cereal giant Kellogg recalled 16 products containing peanut butter, including Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers and Keebler and Famous Amos peanut butter cookies.

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.

Federal health officials had traced one source of salmonella contamination to the plant, which makes peanut butter products for large institutions and peanut butter paste used by food manufacturers in everything from cookies and crackers to cereal and ice cream.

At least 85 companies had reportedly purchased peanut products from the Georgia plant, and 30 had been "urged" to run their own tests for the bacteria, the Associated Press reported.

It is still not clear whether the salmonella was found at the plant is the cause of the massive outbreak, health officials said Friday, but testing continues.

The concern mainly is about peanut paste, since it 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.

The recalls 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.

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.

More information

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

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

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