Throw out peanut butter from 2004!

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of March 7, 2007, 425 people in 44 states have now been infected with the strain of Salmonella Tennessee found in Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter products.

However, although 71 people were hospitalized there have been no fatalities.

Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.

The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most recover without treatment, however, in some people the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized.

The elderly, infants, and those with impaired immune systems are particularly vulnerable.

The Salmonella strain was found by FDA investigators in the Con Agra plant in Georgia, and food safety authorities have now extended a recall of peanut butter linked to the salmonella outbreak to include products bought as early as October 2004; it is unclear at present why the recall has been extended.

Initially, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said all Peter Pan peanut butter bought since May 2006, and all of Wal-Mart Inc.'s Great Value peanut butter with the batch code 2111 should be discarded.

ConAgra Foods Inc. makes both, and has recalled all potentially contaminated batches; the majority of the reported 425 cases began after December 1, 2006.

Public health officials from several states have isolated Salmonella from open jars of peanut butter of both Peter Pan and Great Value brand.

The serotype has been confirmed in fifteen jars as Salmonella Tennessee by DNA fingerprinting, the same as the outbreak strain.

According to the CDC it is estimated that 76 million foodborne illness, or food poisoning cases occur in the United States every year (6.3 million per month), which equates to one in four Americans contracting a foodborne illness annually after eating foods contaminated with such pathogens as E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Hepatitis A, Campylobacter, Shigella, Norovirus, and Listeria.

The CDC says approximately 325,000 people are hospitalized with a diagnosis of food poisoning each year and 5,000 die.

Of that figure 40,000 cases will be confirmed as Salmonella and as only about 3% of Salmonella cases are officially confirmed nationwide, and many milder cases are never diagnosed, the true incidence is thought to be far higher.

The CDC estimates that 1,000 deaths are caused by Salmonella infections in the U.S. every year.

In 2004 only 52 cases of Salmonella Tennessee were reported and on the basis that only 3% of Salmonella cases are ever reported, it is likely that only 1,500 Salmonella Tennessee cases occur annually.

The CDC says the outbreak of salmonella related to peanut butter has affected hundreds of people in dozens of states and at least 25 lawsuits have been filed.

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