I’ve been out of the country for the past week (Panamá, warm and lovely) but have been kept up on the peanut butter outbreak, courtesy of Eric Burkett of Examiner.com. His posts thoroughly cover events in this latest outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium. The outbreak is so widespread that the FDA has a special site devoted to it with a useful Q and A. The FDA warns consumers not to eat any recalled peanut butter or foods made with it (the list is on the FDA site). Peanut butter in jars seems to be OK, so far. If you want to see the epidemiology, the CDC has the case-report charts and state maps online. The lawyers are also getting into the act: Marler Clark is always a source of information about actionable foodborne illnesses, and O’Steen & Harrison also seems to be keeping close track. At issue is where the contamination occurred, where the contaminated peanut butter was distributed, and what other food companies are using this peanut butter. That this information is not readily available is further evidence of the need for better food safety requirements, oversight, and traceability. Let’s hope the new administration takes this on, and soon. And until it does, best to grind your own peanuts!
Update January 19: Just ran across this article on how Salmonella gets into peanut butter in the first place. The usual way: animal feces. Roasting the peanuts should kill Salmonella, so the contamination must have occurred later. Did the factory have a HACCP plan in place? If so, they must not have been paying much attention to it.
Update January 20: Add Cliff and Luna bars to the list.