Contaminated peanut butter scare continues

By Emily Bardales

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating the source of a national salmonella outbreak, believed to be caused by products from the Peanut Corporation of America at its Blakely, Ga., processing plant.

“Jars of peanut butter are safe,” said Paul Simon, spokesman for Schnucks, one of several nationwide grocery chains that had carried the contaminated products. “The concern is with secondary items with peanut butter or peanut paste in the product, like some granola bars, Clif energy and Luna bars, and Kellogg peanut butter and crackers.”

According to a press release, cases were reported in Fayette, Franklin, Lake, St. Clair and Will counties with ages of those affected ranging from 2 years to 73 years old. One person was hospitalized due to illness. No cases of salmonella have been reported in Champaign County.

While there are hundreds of items that consumers are warned against eating, Schnucks carried 27 items, which can be found on its Web site.

Wal-Mart media relations could not be reached for comment on the issue.

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    “In Illinois there have been six cases that match the national outbreak but there have been many cases in other states,” said Kelly Jakubek, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

    This type of salmonella, characterized as salmonella typhimurium, can last anywhere from 24 hours to 12 days and symptoms may include headaches, muscle aches, fever, nausea and dehydration, Jakubek said.

    Symptoms typically appear six to 24 hours after ingestion of a contaminated product. “People feeling ill after eating peanut butter or any product with peanut butter in it should consult their health providers,” Jakubek said.

    As for the University dining services, they were not affected by the recall. “Thankfully we don’t purchase products that contain that kind of peanut butter, so the recall has not affected us,” said Dawn Aubrey, senior assistant director of housing dining services. “We use Jif.”

    Once the manufacturer or distributor notified Schnucks, they pulled the products from all stores.

    “Depending on the distributor, we either destroyed the product or waited for the distributor to pick it up and receive reimbursement,” Simon said.

    The FDA is urging people to look at the lists of recalled products and throw the foods away instead of eating them. Customers with products on the recall list can return the items for full refund.