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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The Great Salmonella Peanut Butter Crash of 2009

I sent off a press release this morning asking for the FDA to do its job and recall peanut butter likely implicated in this recent Salmonella outbreak, and then I leave Minneapolis for the short flight to Seattle.  So, guess what happens when I am in the air – The FDA does its job.  When I landed I got this email"

"The FDA urged consumers on Saturday to avoid eating peanut butter and products that contain it until they can determine the scope of an outbreak of Salmonella food poisoning that may have contributed to six deaths."

"We urge consumers to postpone eating any products that may contain peanut butter until additional information becomes available," Dr. Stephen Sundlof of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety said in a teleconference with reporters.

"As of now, there is no indication that "major national name brand jars of peanut butter sold in retail stores are linked" to bulk supplies of peanut butter and peanut paste recalled for fear of possible contamination, the FDA said in a follow-up statement.

On the plane I was reading "The Great Crash" (not great reading on a plane perhaps) by John Kenneth Galbraith about the stock crash of 1929, and noticed that the nuts I was about to eat where from King Nut, presumably sourced from Peanut Corporation of America.  I must admit, I ate them.  Now I wait.

An infectious dose of Salmonella is small, probably from 15 to 20 cells.  The incubation period – the time between ingestion of Salmonella bacteria and the onset of illness – varies from six to 72 hours (Mayo Clinic, 2007, April 12; MMWR Recomm Rep, 2001).

As I said to AP before I left – I am glad the FDA stepped up during the flight:

Seattle-area lawyer William Marler, who specializes in food safety cases, said the government shouldn’t wait for the results of more tests to request recalls.

"At least 30 companies purchased peanut butter or paste from a facility with a documented link to a nationwide salmonella outbreak," said Marler. "The FDA has the authority actually, the mandate to request recalls if the public health is threatened. Instead, the FDA has asked the companies to test their products and consider voluntary recalls. It is just not enough."

See local ABC TV Coverge.