Peanut butter causes salmonella outbreak nationwide

October 10, 2012

In a rare case of salmonella poisoning, 35 people in 19 states including one in New York have fallen ill. The outbreak was caused by peanut butter and nut food products from the Sunland Inc. facilities in New Mexico, according to a statement from the Food and Drug Administration. The contaminated products were first recalled by grocery chain Trader Joe’s, the recall has expanded to several other grocery stores including Whole Foods, Sun Harvest and Costco.

“We are reviewing every step in our manufacturing process and are confident that the expertise being applied to the investigation will enable Sunland to take any necessary corrective measures and once again produce products that families will enjoy with confidence,” Sunland CEO Jimmie Shearer said in an Oct. 4 statement.

Sunland, like ConAgra after the 2007 Peter Pan peanut butter recall, could lose millions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement on Oct. 5 confirming 0 deaths and 8 hospitalizations and encouraged consumers to dispose of any recalled peanut butter or other nut products. The CDC recommended that consumers who think they have fallen ill as a result of contamination are encouraged to consult their healthcare providers, although cases have show that most adults recover without treatment. The Trader Joe’s website lists symptoms of infection and warns about infections in the young or elderly, as such infections can be much more serious.  According to CDC statistics , an estimated 1.2 million Americans are infected with salmonella every year with around 400 fatal cases. Salmonella can be contracted from ingestion or contact with contaminated food or water, or infected animals.

The CDC said its the investigation into the recall is still ongoing  and the full extent of the contamination is still unknown.

“Trader Joe’s is fully cooperating with these authorities because there is nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and crew, and the quality of our products,” Trader Joe’s said on its website.

CAS freshman Becky Grinberg said she would still shop at Trader Joe’s and doubts others will stop just because of the peanut butter recall.

“Maybe they’ll stop buying peanut butter but only for a month at the most,” Grinberg said.

Marion Nestle, a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health, also said she doubted the company would feel much of an impact.

“Trader Joe’s has such a strong customer base that I doubt the peanut butter recall will cause much of a problem except for peanut butter sales,” Nestle said.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 10 print edition. Margaret Eby is a contributing writer. Email her at cstate@nyunews.com 

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