FDA Must Widen Salmonella Peanut Butter Recalls
Seattle food safety advocate and attorney Bill Marler is calling on the FDA to request recalls of foods containing peanut butter products manufactured in the Peanut Corporation of America’s (PCA) Blakely, GA plant. Tests have shown that product produced in the facility carries the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium, which has sickened at least 453 people in 43 states and Canada and may have contributed to six deaths.
“At least thirty companies purchased peanut butter or paste from a facility with a documented link to a nation-wide Salmonella outbreak,” said Marler. “The FDA has the authority – actually, the mandate – to request recalls if the public health is threatened. Instead, the FDA has asked the companies to test their products and consider voluntary recalls. It is just not enough.”
The earliest illnesses were documented in September, 2008 and have stretched over a 4-month period. At least 90 people have been hospitalized. Six people have had the outbreak strain when they died, and it is thought that the Salmonella infection contributed to their deaths.
“The CDC estimates that for every documented Salmonella illness, more than 38 people just “tough it out” and don’t go to the doctor or are never tested. That means that this outbreak may have sickened 17,000 people. It is the FDA’s responsibility to make sure that it doesn’t sicken anyone else.”
Marler laid out specific recommendations on his influential blog:
• Make sure ALL product is promptly recalled;
• Do not destroy any documents;
• The companies should pay the medical bills and all related expenses of the innocent victims and their families;
• The companies should pay the cost of all related Health Department, CDC and FDA investigations;
• Provide all bacterial and viral testing of all recalled product and any other tested product (before and after recall);
• Release all inspection reports on the plants by any Governmental Entity or Third-party Auditor;
• Release all Salmonella safety precautions taken by either King Nut or Peanut Corporation of America - especially after the 2007 Salmonella Peanut Butter Outbreak;
• Provide the public with the Epidemiological investigation (with names redacted), so it is clear who knew what and when about the likely source of the outbreak; and
• Show the public what is being done to prevent the next outbreak.
“Not all companies will be as proactive as Kellogg’s in recalling their product, Marler continued. “Which is why we have a government agency to make sure public health is always the first priority. The FDA needs to take swift and decisive action to get potentially contaminated products out of circulation.”
Salmonella is a bacterium that causes one of the most common intestinal illnesses in the US: salmonellosis infection. It can be present in uncooked or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs, or unpasteurized dairy products, as well as other foods contaminated during harvest, production, or packaging. It is not yet known how the peanut butter became contaminated.
Symptoms can begin 6 to 72 hours from consumption, and include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and/or vomiting. Dehydration is a concern, especially with the elderly, very young, or immune compromised. More information is available at www.about-salmonella.com and www.salmonellablog.com.