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Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak

On September 21, 2012, multiple state departments of health announced that Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter made with sea salt was the source of a Salmonella outbreak. Forty-two Salmonella Bredeney cases nationwide had been traced to the consumption of peanut butter and other nut butter products produced by Sunland, Inc. by November 30, 2012, when the CDC issued its final Salmonella outbreak report. Cases were reported in the following states: Arizona (1), California (7), Connecticut (3), Illinois (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (1), Michigan (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (2), New Jersey (2), New Mexico (1), New York (2), Nevada (1), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (2), Rhode Island (1), Texas (5), Virginia (2), West Virginia (2).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28% of victims were hospitalized as a result of their Salmonella infections. Nearly two-thirds of victims are under the age of 10.

Trader Joe's removed its Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter from stores and issued a recall after being notified of the outbreak on September 22, 2012. Two days later, Sunland, Inc., producer of Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter, recalled its peanut butter and other products containing nuts and seeds for potential Salmonella contamination.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of Salmonella infection--fever, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping--from 6 to 72 hours after consuming Trader Joe's peanut butter was urged to contact a healthcare provider and the health department to report their illness.

Q: What should I do if I think I’m part of the Trader Joe's peanut butter Salmonella outbreak?

A: Contact your local health department to report your illness. If you believe you need medical assistance for your Salmonella infection, contact your healthcare provider.

Q: How will I know if I’m part of the Trader Joe's peanut butter Salmonella outbreak?

A: Salmonella bacteria can be detected in stool. A fecal sample provided to a healthcare provider or health department is placed in nutrient broth or on agar and incubated for 2-3 days. After that time, a trained microbiologist can identify Salmonella bacteria, if present, and confirm its identity by looking at biochemical reactions. Treatment with antibiotics before collecting a specimen for testing can affect bacterial growth in culture, and lead to a negative test result even when Salmonella causes the infection.

If Salmonella is isolated from an ill person’s stool, a bacterial isolate can be compared to isolates from other ill individuals – and possibly from food samples. Bacterial isolates that have matching “DNA Fingerprints” indicate a potential common source of Salmonella infection. Epidemiologists work to determine whether two people with positive bacterial isolates with indistinguishable DNA fingerprints are part of a common outbreak – in this case, one tied to Salmonella-contaminated Trader Joe's peanut butter.

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