Salmonella Confirmed in Peanut Butter Plant

By MARY CLARE JALONICK | October 9, 2012

Salmonella has been found in a New Mexico plant that produces nut butters for retailer Trader Joe’s and several other large national grocery chains, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday. The Trader Joe’s peanut butter is now linked to 35 salmonella illnesses in 19 states – most of them in children under the age of 10.

Washington state health officials have also confirmed the presence of salmonella in an opened jar of the Trader Joe’s peanut butter found in a victim’s home, the FDA said.

Though the illnesses have only been linked to the Trader Joe’s peanut butter, the government findings have prompted New Mexico-based Sunland Inc. to recall everything made in the plant since March of 2010 – a total of 240 products. The company last month recalled 101 products that were manufactured in the plant this year.

An FDA investigation found salmonella in environmental samples taken from various surfaces in the plant, officials said. The agency did not release any other details about conditions at the plant.

The recall includes nut butters and nut products sold at Whole Foods Market, Target, Safeway, Costco, Fresh & Easy, Harry and David, Sprouts, Heinen’s, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, Giant Food of Landover, Md., and several other stores since 2010.

Some of those retailers used Sunland ingredients in items they prepared and packaged themselves or sold the peanut butter in jars labeled with a store brand. Some stores and companies that used Sunland products as ingredients have issued additional recalls.

The products recalled include peanut butters, almond butters, cashew butters, tahini, and blanched and roasted peanut products. The expanded recall this week added several varieties of flavored butters and spreads, including Sunland’s Thai Ginger Butter, Chocolate Butter and Banana Butter. Brand names included are Target’s Archer Farms, Safeway’s Open Nature, Earth Balance, Fresh & Easy, Late July, Heinen’s, Joseph’s, Natural Value, Naturally More, Peanut Power Butter, Serious Food, Snaclite Power, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sprouts, Sunland and Dogsbutter.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that officials now count 35 salmonella illnesses in 19 states across the country that can be traced to the Trader Joe’s peanut butter. The greatest numbers of illnesses were in California and Texas. Five illnesses were reported in each.

Those sickened reported becoming ill between June 14 and Sept. 18, according to the CDC. Sixty-three percent were children under the age of 10 and the median age of the victims is seven. No deaths have been reported.

Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 hours to 72 hours after infection. It is most dangerous to children, the elderly and others with weak immune systems.

Other major peanut butter brands like Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan are not included in the recall. An outbreak of salmonella in peanut butter in 2008 and 2009 linked to one company and thousands of products sickened 714 people in 46 states.

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