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Tracking Down a Salmonella Outbreak
Date:1/30/2009

CDC report details how health officials first spotted, chased down source and spread of tainted peanut product

FRIDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- The salmonella outbreak that has now sickened 529 people began as a blip on U.S. health-monitoring radar.

Officials with the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention report that the problem first showed up as a small multi-state cluster of a strain of the bacteria on Nov. 10 of last year. It took the search party until Dec. 28 to narrow the possible target to peanut products being served in institutions.

In between, according to the detailed account in the Jan. 29 early release issue of the CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the problem grew, as reports of illnesses did likewise.

That led to this week, and one of the largest recalls in U.S. history: U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials on Wednesday recalled every single peanut product made in the last two years at a Georgia facility owned by Peanut Corp. of America.

Now, the real search begins.

As of Jan. 28, at least 431 peanut butter containing products had been recalled by 54 companies that had used ingredients produced at the Peanut Corp. facility after July 1, 2008, according to the CDC documents.

Now, FDA inspectors must tackle the monumental task of tracking and removing products that were sent, by their own accounts, to 2,100 different locations.

The problem is compounded by the fact that most of the products are not whole products sitting on store shelves. In fact, jars of plain-old peanut butter are safe to consume, since they were not made at the plant. However, Peanut Corp. supplied institutions and others with product that was used mainly for making other products, everything from candy and cookies to dog biscuits, ice cream and peanut butter crackers.

"There is a lot of work in finding out what is causing an outbrea
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