FDA: Steer clear of peanut butter products for now

The US Food & Drug Administration warns the public to refrain from consuming foods that contain peanut butter until the food in question is cleared of any link to the national salmonella outbreak.

The Food & Drug Administration strongly urges the public to refrain from consuming foods that contain peanut butter until the items in question are proven unlinked to the continuing national salmonella outbreak.

"We don't yet have the data to provide consumers with specific information about what brands or products they should avoid," said Stephen Sundlof, DVM, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.Currently, the recommendation does not entail brand-name jars of peanut butter from grocery stores, which have not been linked to the infections.

The FDA is centering its latest investigation into the source of the outbreak - Peanut Corporation of America's processing plant in Blakely, Ga. The facility stopped operations after health officials in Minnesota and Connecticut discovered salmonella in peanut butter made there and the FDA detected salmonella in environmental samples from there.

However, officials have not yet definitively connected the salmonella detected in previously unopened containers stemming from this plant to the strain being cited for the outbreak - Salmonella typhimurium. The outbreak has adversely affected 474 people in 43 states, with one case in Canada.

PCA has extended its recalls to now include all peanut butter and peanut paste produced on or after July 1, 2008 at the Blakely facility. A total of 85 manufacturers and distributors have been recipients of the products. Many companies have released their own voluntary recalls of various foods, including crackers, cereal, cookies, and ice cream, that reportedly contain peanut butter or paste from PCA.

"In terms of food products that contain peanut butter but have not yet been recalled," Sundlof said in a statement, "we urge consumers to postpone eating these products until further information becomes available about whether that product may be affected."

Food companies are being asked to evaluate records for any links to the recalled PCA products. If any such products are found, they are advised to remove any and all products using peanut butter-related ingredients from distribution until the investigation is wrapped up.

The CDC reports that approximately 23% of the national cases of salmonella infection have led to hospitalization.Six people infected with salmonella have died, although there is no clear determination as to whether the infection caused the deaths, the CDC said.

FDA is monitoring all such peanut butter recalls at this Web site.