Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about the Recent Salmonella Outbreak
Why has Salmonella been in the news recently?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been receiving reports, from many states, of illnesses caused by a type of Salmonella called Salmonella Typhimurium. Several deaths may also be associated with this outbreak. Tests indicate that the people who became sick may have eaten the same contaminated food, because they were infected with the same strain of Salmonella Typhimurium (i.e., the strain of Salmonella shared the same genetic "fingerprint"). Additional information on the numbers of illness and the states in which they occurred can be found at www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium/.
Is the salmonellosis outbreak definitely linked to peanut butter?
A combination of epidemiological analysis and laboratory testing by state officials in Minnesota and Connecticut, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and CDC enabled FDA to confirm that the sources of the outbreak were peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at its Blakely, Georgia, processing plant. Peanut paste is a concentrated product consisting of ground, roasted peanuts that is distributed to food manufacturers to be used as an ingredient in many commercially produced products including cakes, cookies, crackers, candies, cereal and ice cream.
As a result of this finding, a number of foods containing peanut butter and peanut paste produced by PCA from July 1, 2008, to the present were recalled on January 13, 2009. On January 28, 2009, PCA expanded its recall to include all peanut products produced on or after January 1, 2007. Some of the recalls by firms supplied by PCA involve foods sold directly to consumers, such as peanut butter crackers, peanut butter cookies, and ice cream made with peanut butter, and some involve food product sold directly to institutions, restaurants, the food service industry, and private label food companies.
Are any other ingredients involved in the recall besides those containing peanut butter and peanut paste?
Yes, Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) is expanding its recall to include all peanuts and peanut products processed in its Blakely, Georgia, facility since January 1, 2007. The recall includes products that contain the following ingredients:
* peanut granules
* peanut meal
* dry roasted peanuts
* oil roasted peanuts
* peanut butter
* peanut paste
What are peanut granules and what kinds of products are they used in?
Peanut granules are particles chopped to approximately 1/8 inch in diameter, made from peanuts with the peanut heart and germ removed that are dry or oil roasted and blanched.
Peanut granules may be used as a topping on confectionary products (such as cakes and doughnuts), baked products (such as crackers, cookies, candy, and snack bars), and ice cream products (such as ice cream cones and bars). Peanut granules may be added to peanut butter to make it crunchier.
What is peanut meal and what kinds of products is it used in?
Peanut meal is a by-product of the separation of different components (extraction) of peanut oil. It is used to make peanut butter and peanut paste. Peanut meal also may be used infrequently as an ingredient in animal feed.
If peanut products are found in so many foods, how do I know which ones are affected by the recall?
* Consumers can identify the products potentially at risk by looking in FDA’s searchable list of recalled peanut products at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm. This list is being updated on a regular basis, as information becomes available, so consumers
* If a product is not in FDA’s list of recalled products, consumers may wish to look at the company’s Web site or call the toll-free number listed on most packaging. Information consumers may receive from the companies in this manner has not been verified by FDA. (Consumers will not find the name PCA or Peanut Company of America listed on product packaging because the company distributes its products to a large number of other food processors who may use their own name on the packaging or use the products as ingredients in other products that will not contain the PCA name on the packaging.)
* Major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores are not affected by the PCA recall.
Why has the recall expanded to other peanut-based products besides those containing peanut butter and peanut paste?
FDA initiated an inspection of PCA’s Blakely, Georgia, plant on January 9, 2009, shortly after the firm was implicated as a possible link to the ongoing outbreak. FDA’s inspection, concluding on January 27, 2009, identified deficiencies related to the firm’s manufacturing process, and cleaning programs and procedures for its manufacturing equipment. In addition, FDA’s testing of environmental samples that were collected during the inspection revealed Salmonella present in the plant. PCA’s records also indicate:
* The firm failed to take steps to mitigate Salmonella contamination in the facility.
* Approximately 12 instances occurred in 2007 and 2008 where the firm, as part of its own internal testing program, identified some type of Salmonella in its product and still released the product into the marketplace.
Because of these deficiencies, potentially contaminated products may be in the marketplace or in consumers' homes.
Why did the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) expand the recall to include products with dates prior to July 1, 2008?
FDA’s further investigation has revealed that products manufactured before July 1, 2008, may be contaminated with Salmonella. Because some contaminated products may currently be in freezers, pantries, or on retail shelves, PCA has expanded the recall to include all peanut products produced on or after January 1, 2007, at its Blakely, Georgia facility.
Why was the recall not expanded to include products produced before July 1, 2008, until now?
The expanded recall reflects information available only recently, including information in PCA's records and test information from FDA's environmental sampling at PCA’s Blakely, Georgia, plant.
What action is FDA taking now that there are additional products known to be at risk for contamination?
This is an active and dynamic investigation. FDA is already working with the company and corporate purchasers of peanut butter and peanut paste from PCA to identify affected products and facilitate their removal from the market. FDA and state officials have visited in excess of 1,000 firms that purchased these products from PCA. FDA will continue the same type of work to track peanut granules, peanut meal, dry roasted peanuts, oil roasted peanuts, and additional peanut butter and peanut paste.
FDA also will continue to:
* Provide up-to-date information to consumers through the news media, FDA’s Web page at www.fda.gov, and its searchable list of recalled products at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm.
* Conduct active outreach to consumers, industry, day care facilities, institutions, vending facilities, retail and Internet stores, and others to alert them to the recalls and provide food safety advice.
Have any pet foods been recalled because of the Salmonella outbreak?
Yes. Pet owners can find a searchable list of all the food products recalled at: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm#PetFood
Can I find specific pet food products on the list?
Yes. The list is broken down by product categories such as Pet Food Product Recalls. The list also can be searched by entering a brand name in the search box, or a UPC Code Number, a product description, or any combination of brand name, description, and UPC code.
What are the symptoms of Salmonella infections in pets?
Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Well animals can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.
Have there been any Salmonella infections associated with pet food products?
The FDA has not received any reports of illness associated with the pet food products. For additional information and updates related to this Salmonella outbreak, please see http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html.
What steps can I take to prevent foodborne illness when handling pet foods and treats?
While the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet food products. Wash hands with hot water and soap before and after handling pet foods and treats and wash pet food bowls and utensils with hot water and soap after each use. For additional tips to prevent foodborne illness from pet food products, go to http://www.fda.gov/cvm/CVM_Updates/foodbornetips.htm.
What is FDA’s advice for consumers?
* Consumers are advised not to eat products that have been recalled and to throw them away in a manner that prevents others from eating them.
* FDA urges consumers first to visit FDA's Web site to determine if commercially prepared or manufactured products containing peanut products from Peanut Corporation of America (such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy, ice cream, pet food or treats) are subject to recall. Identification of products subject to recall is continuing, and FDA will update its list of recalled products and advice based on new information. Consumers who do not have access to the Internet may obtain this information by calling FDA's information line at 1-888-SAFEFOOD or CDC's consumer information hotline that is staffed 24/7 at 1-800-CDC-INFO.
* For information on products containing peanuts or peanut products as ingredients from companies not reporting recalls to date, consumers may wish to consult the company's Web site or call the toll-free number listed on most packaging. Information consumers may receive from the companies in this manner has not been verified by FDA.
* If consumers cannot determine if their peanut products may contain peanut ingredients from PCA, FDA recommends they do not consume those products. Efforts to specifically identify products subject to the PCA recall and to continuously update consumers are ongoing.
* People who think they may have become ill from eating peanut products are advised to consult their health care providers