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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

A Bit(e) of Salmonella Peanut Butter History – Lessons Unlearned Pre Trader Joe’s

In 2009 the President said:

“At a bare minimum, we should be able to count on our government keeping our kids safe when they eat peanut butter,” the president said.

“That’s what Sasha eats for lunch,” Obama said, referring to his 7-year-old daughter. “Probably three times a week. I don’t want to worry about whether she’s going to get sick as a consequence of eating her lunch.”

I wonder how he feels seeing another outbreak?

With the Salmonella outbreak linked to Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter sickening 29 (so far) an overview of where we are now and what happened in peanut butter Salmonella outbreaks in the past might be helpful.

So far Public health officials in Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania issued public health alerts on September 21 and 22, 2012 about a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney linked to consumption of Trader Joe’s Creamy Salted Peanut Butter. State and federal investigators have identified 29 cases of illnesses linked to the product. The earliest onset occurred on June 11, 2012. Two patients live in Pennsylvania, one patient each lives in Rhode Island, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina and Maryland, and three patients are residents of Massachusetts. Trader Joe’s has removed the product from stores. The removed product comes in 16-ounce containers with “use by” dates of May 23, 2013 and June 28, 2013.

We have seen this before.

ConAgra Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter 2006/2007 – 715 Sickened

In November 2006, public health officials detected a substantial increase in reports of Salmonella Tennessee isolates. In February, 2007, a multistate, case-control study linked the consumption of either Peter Pan or Great Value Peanut Butter brands with infection. Subsequently the same strain of Salmonella Tennessee was isolated from unopened jars of peanut butter and from environmental samples collected from the processing plant. The product was recalled, and new illness reports declined. Unsanitary conditions at the Sylvester, Georgia, processing plant were known about since 2004. On April 5, 2007, ConAgra announced inadvertent moisture from a leaking roof and sprinkler system could have promoted bacteria growth in the plant. Great Value brand was sold at WalMart stores.

Peanut Corporation of America, Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter – Containing Products 2008/2009– 716 Sickened with 9 Deaths

Beginning in November 2008, CDC (Centers for Disease Control) PulseNet staff noted a small and highly dispersed, multistate cluster of Salmonella Typhimurium isolates. The outbreak consisted of two pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) defined clusters of illness. The first cluster displayed a unique primary enzyme (XbaI) restriction pattern and an uncommon secondary enzyme (BlnI) pattern. The second cluster had two closely related XbaI patterns that were very similar to the first cluster and a BlnI pattern that was indistinguishable from the first cluster. Illnesses continued to be revealed through April 2009, when the last CDC report on the outbreak was published. Peanut butter and peanut butter containing products produced by the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia, were implicated. King Nut brand peanut butter was sold to institutional settings. Peanut paste was sold to many food companies for use as an ingredient. Implicated peanut products were sold widely throughout the USA, 23 countries and non-U.S. territories. Despite numerous product recalls, beginning in January, 2009, the wide dispersion of the peanut products, the long shelf life of these products, and the multiple labeling made it impossible to assure that all sources of these contaminated products had been totally eliminated. Peanut prices and demand for peanut-based products were little affected by this outbreak.

Hopefully, the Trader Joe’s Salmonella outbreak will be much more limited.