Peanut butter most likely caused Salmonella outbreak

by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
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MINNEAPOLIS — While meat processors nervously awaited word on the cause of the latest Salmonella outbreak in the U.S. (See Salmonella outbreak spans 42 states, source unknown in the Jan. 9 edition of MEATPOULTRY.COM), Minnesota Department of Health officials said late last Friday the Salmonella bacteria found in 30 Minnesotans believe to have been sickened by eating King Nut brand creamy peanut butter has the same genetic fingerprint as the Salmonella bacteria found in 400 sick people in 42 states, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Department spokesman Doug Schultz said more testing on cases in other states must be done to confirm the peanut butter is the source of those illnesses, but it’s now likely this product is the source.

The potentially case-breaking clue in this outbreak was that many Minnesotans who became sick had eaten in institutional settings including nursing homes, schools and colleges, said Kirk Smith, supervisor of food-borne diseases at the state Department of Health. "What they had in common was this brand of peanut butter," he added. "That was enough."

Almost two years ago, ConAgra recalled its Peter Pan brand peanut butter, which was eventually linked to at least 625 Salmonella cases in 47 states.

This past week, state health officials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began investigating the outbreak of Salmonella serotype Typhimurium that has been discovered in 42 states and sickened approximately 400 people and hospitalizing about 20% of the people. CDC and its investigation team said the source was likely linked to food.

Of concern to the meat industry was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said last week the same type of Salmonella bacteria has been lab-confirmed in 388 cases nationwide. Of lab-confirmed cases, Salmonella Typhimurium is the most common and is often found in meat and eggs.

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