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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

DeFranco E. coli Hazelnut and Skippy Salmonella Peanut Butter Recall Announcement – A Side by Side Comparison

The FDA posts company prepared press releases each time there is a recall of product – whether there are illnesses or not.

Screen shot 2011-03-06 at 8.10.14 AM.pngHazelnut E. coli O157:H7

In the case if DeFranco Hazelnuts, the company proudly notes that the recall is “voluntarily,” although was prompted, “after the nut products were linked to 7 illnesses in the states of MI, MN, and WI.” However, DeFranco then notes that “[t]o-date, no E. coli O157:H7 has been detected in the nut products.” Although certainly true, when combined with DeFranco’s futher warning, “Consumers who think they may have the affected hazelnut or mixed nut products containing hazelnuts should not eat them,” seems more like a mixed message than truly helpful to consumers. Hopefully, the outbreak is over and limited to these seven people, and that the warning and recall serves the purpose.

Skippy.jpgPeanut Butter Salmonella

In Unilever United States, Inc., it announced “a limited recall of Skippy® Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread and Skippy® Reduced Fat Super Chunk Peanut Butter Spread, because it may be contaminated with Salmonella.” And, that “[t]he product was distributed to retail outlets in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.” It also proudly (hopefully) noted that “[t]o date, no illnesses related to this issue have been reported.”

Of course, we do hope that there are in fact no illnesses linked to Skippy Peanut Butter, but how do we know? The press release is a bit silent on when the testing was done, or why the product was apparently shipped BEFORE the test results came back (there would have been no need for a recall)? Also, was the positive Salmonella test subjected to serotyping (there are over 2,000 Salmonella species) and genetic fingerprinting so CDC PulseNet could compare the Skippy Salmonella to any ill persons who became ill after consuming it?

Perhaps that will be in the next press release posted on the FDA website?

  • Roy Costa

    What we are seeing now is this continued change in illness patterns from animal derived foods, to plant derived foods. The situation is fueled by increased consumption, scrutiny, better detection methods and more industry testing. Small outbreaks and recalls ( small-if numbers remain low) remind us that the pathogens are poised to contaminate foods wherever they can. We seem to be catching the problem earlier but the reservoirs of infection persist.
    Of chief concern to me is whether our preventive techniques are working and how well.
    DeFranco was certified, I would be surprised if the Skippy plant was not licensed and inspected.
    So where does this leave us in prevention, what do we have to do to reduce the potential for outbreaks further so that intermittent sporadic episodes like this do not occur, or occur so infrequently that we can consider it acceptable? We are far from there, but I would like to be sure we are going in the right direction and so am interested in what further issues might be revealed by these incidents. Thanks for your post.