Peanut Corporation of America in the News Again – New England Journal of Medicine reviews the tragedy

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published today on the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that occurred between September 1, 2008, and April 20, 2009. NEJM found that among 714 case patients identified in 46 states, 166 (23%) were hospitalized and 9 (1%) died. NEJM also noted that because many persons with salmonellosis do not seek medical care or are not tested, it is estimated that 16 times as many cases of illness occurred than were reported. That would be – 11,424 sickened.

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Using the data from the FDA, Congress, FBI and the U.S. Attorney, NEJM reported that Salmonella Typhimurium had been isolated from peanut paste at the Georgia PCA facility during routine product testing in September 2008. The study laboratory retested a sample of the peanut paste but was unable to isolate Salmonella Typhimurium again. This peanut paste lot was shipped from the Georgia PCA facility to other states. The lots of roasted peanuts used to make this peanut paste were also used to make multiple lots of peanut butter. During routine product testing at the Georgia PCA facility from July 2007 through January 2008, salmonella of several serotypes had been isolated from a variety of peanut products; all positive products were retested, found to be negative for salmonella, and distributed.

A total of 3918 peanut butter–containing products were recalled between January 10 and April 29, 2009. This outbreak resulted in one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history and an estimated $1 billion loss in peanut sales.  The report di not account for the costs of recalls, bankruptcies, illnesses and deaths.

Either way, those are a lot of illnesses and a lot of money – wasted.