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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

CDC Updates Its Website (and numbers of ill), but does not name King Nut Peanuts as source of Salmonella Typhimurium 2008-2009 Outbreak

So, Minnesota’s "Team Diarrhea" announced yesterday that they figured out that is was 5lb buckets of King Nut Peanut Butter which was causing its 30 citizens to get sick with the exact same genetic Salmonella Typhimurium which is sickening the other 369 in the rest of the country.  However, I see no mention below from CDC as to the source of the illnesses.  And, FDA, and King Nut for that matter, are silent on if a recall is coming.  Given that this 5lb bucket of Salmonella, errr, Peanut Butter, is likely still in institutional settings, and people are still getting sick, a recall is in order. 

What are we waiting for?  Is "Team Diarrhea" wrong?  Is it some other product that sickening us?  Just a guess, but I would bet that the CDC, FDA and other State’s Health Departments have a "tomato/pepper hangover."  Are they worried more about pointing the finger at King Nut (Minnesota did not seem to mind), or more worried about public safety?  I suppose time will tell.

Investigation of Outbreak of Infections Caused by Salmonella Typhimurium 2008-2009

Persons Infected with the Outbreak Strain of Salmonella Typhimurium, United States, by State, September 1, 2008 to January 9, 2009

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in many states, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate an ongoing multistate outbreak of human infections due to Salmonella serotype Typhimurium.

As of Friday, January 9, 2009, 399 persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 42 states. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Arizona (8), Arkansas (3), California (55), Colorado (9), Connecticut (6), Georgia (5), Hawaii (1), Idaho (10), Illinois (4), Indiana (3), Iowa (1), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Maine (3), Maryland (7), Massachusetts (39), Michigan (20), Minnesota (30), Missouri (8), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (10), New Jersey (13), New York (12), Nevada (6), North Carolina (1), North Dakota (10), Ohio (53), Oklahoma (2), Oregon (5), Pennsylvania (12), Rhode Island (3), South Dakota (2), Tennessee (9), Texas (5), Utah (3), Vermont (4), Virginia (12),Washington (11), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (3), and Wyoming (2). Among the 380 persons with dates available, illnesses began between September 3 and December 31, 2008, with most illnesses beginning after October 1, 2008. Patients range in age from <1 to 98 years; 49% are female. Among persons with available information, 18% were hospitalized.

CDC and its public health partners are vigorously working to identify the specific contaminated product, probably a food or foods, that is causing this outbreak. Outbreaks from a widely distributed contaminated product may cause illnesses across the United States, and the identity of the contaminated product is often not readily apparent.

In outbreaks like this one, identification of the contaminated product requires conducting detailed standardized interviews with persons who were ill and with non-ill members of the public ("controls") to compare foods they recently ate and other exposures. Using statistical methods, the contaminated item is identified as one to which significantly more ill persons than controls were exposed. This statistically-based method of identifying contaminated products is often supplemented by laboratory testing of suspect products. The investigation is labor intensive and typically takes weeks. It is not always successful. As soon as a source is identified, if there is evidence of ongoing risk, public health officials advise the public to avoid it, and conduct recalls when appropriate.