Latest food scare in the U.S.- Salmonella in peanut butter

In the latest food scare to hit the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers not to eat some brands of peanut butter.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 288 cases of food-borne illness in 39 states have been linked to eating Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter.

The CDC says certain jars of the peanut butter may be contaminated with Salmonella Tennessee, a bacterium that causes food-borne illness.

The Salmonella bacteria is carried by animals and it appears the bacteria was in some way transferred during the manufacturing process to the peanuts.

Both brands are manufactured in a single facility in Georgia by ConAgra; Great Value peanut butter made by other manufacturers is not affected.

The FDA says the outbreak appears to be ongoing and the first consumer may have become ill in August 2006.

Difficulty in identifying the source of such illnesses has meant extensive epidemiological testing and recent case control studies have revealed Peter Pan peanut butter was the likely cause of the illness.

Great Value brand peanut butter beginning with product code 2111 is manufactured in the same plant as Peter Pan peanut butter and is believed therefore to be at similar risk of contamination.

The FDA is recommending that all affected jars of Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter purchased since May 2006 be discarded.

ConAgra has recalled all varieties of Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Great Value Peanut Butter beginning with product code 2111 as a precautionary measure.

The company is working closely with the FDA to resolve the issue by reviewing records, collecting product samples and conducting tests for Salmonella Tennessee.

Symptoms of foodborne illness caused by Salmonella include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps.

For people with poor underlying health or weakened immune systems, Salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

The FDA says the symptoms of salmonella include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps and any such illnesses should be reported to state or local health authorities.

This latest outbreak follows major food-borne illness scares in 2006 involving spinach, tomatoes and iceberg lettuce.

Experts say as salmonella is a very prevalent organism, such outbreaks are not unusual.

An estimated 80 million people in the United States each year suffer from food poisoning and as many as 10,000 people die.

ConAgra has also recalled more than 400,000 pounds of pasta and meatball meals that they believe may have been under processed.

The recall involves 36.6-ounce cartons of Banquet brand Homestyle Bakes Pasta & Meatballs in Marinara Sauce produced between October 19, 2006 and January 25.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service says there have been no reports of illnesses linked to these products.

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