FDA: 'Postpone' eating foods containing peanut butter

The Food and Drug Administration says Americans should "postpone" eating cookies, crackers, candy and ice cream that contain peanut butter or peanut paste while the agency works to establish which products are tainted with the strain of salmonella typhimurium which has sickened 474 people nationwide and is implicated in six deaths.

"Product specific information will become available in the next few days," says Stephen Sundlof, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

While snack products are potentially contaminated, supermarket peanut butter is not.

It appears that the only peanut butter linked to the outbreak was an institutional brand sold in 5 to 50 pounds tubs to schools, hospitals and nursing homes under the King Nut and Parnell's Pride label. It was never sold at the retail level and is not available at supermarkets and grocery stores, FDA says.

As for products that might contain the tainted peanut butter and peanut paste, FDA is encouraging companies that bought from the Peanut Corporation of America's Blakely, Ga., plant to inform consumers their products might be contaminated.

Tests by the Georgia Dept. of Agriculture found peanut butter from the plant tested positive for salmonella, but tests to determine if that salmonella is an exact DNA match to the outbreak strain are still ongoing.

The agency is asking companies that make peanut butter or paste containing products that aren't linked to products from the Georgia plant also make that known to the public.

For the FDA's up-to-date list of affected products, visit: www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html#recalls

The list of items affected by the salmonella-tainted peanut butter from the plant rose substantially Friday night when the Kellogg Company added 12 new items to its list, including select snack-size packs of Famous Amos Peanut Butter Cookies and Keebler Soft Batch Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies.

Kellogg said the products "have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella."

"The actions we are taking today are in keeping with our more than 100-year commitment to providing consumers with safe, high-quality products," said David Mackay, president and CEO, Kellogg Company.

Kellogg is one of 85 companies which bought peanut butter and peanut paste produced in the Georgia plant.

PCA Friday expanded its recall of peanut butter and peanut paste made at the plant to include all peanut butter produced on or after August 8, 2008 and all peanut paste produced on or after September 26, 2008.

The peanut butter was sold in containers ranging in size from five to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste was sold in sizes ranging from 35 pounds to tanker containers, the company said in a release.

Peanut paste consists of ground, roasted peanuts and is used as an ingredient in cookies, crackers, cereals and ice creams, says FDA's Sundlof.

Supermarkets nationwide worked Friday and Saturday to remove potentially tainted products.

A spokesperson for Wal-Mart said the Bentonville-Ark.-company had contacted each of its stores so they immediately can "pull and hold" the crackers.

Costco pulled the Kellogg crackers off store shelves Tuesday night even before Kellogg had made its announcement, says Craig Wilson, Costco's vice president of food safety.

There was an empty gap Saturday on the shelves of the Marsh grocery store in Brownsburg, Ind., where several varieties of Keebler snack crackers with peanut butter fillings had been removed.

Dan Fredrickson, manager of the Woodman's Food Market in Madison, Wis. says he thought his shelves were empty because his supplier recently stopped shipping the product. But he said in any recall, he said his store acts quickly.

"It's off the shelves as soon as we are notified," Fredrickson says.

In Colorado, managers at several Fort Collins-area King Soopers and Safeway grocery stores said they received the recall notice Thursday and immediately pulled the crackers from their shelves.

Ron Freeman, chief financial officer for Asheville, N.C.-based Ingles markets says all the Keebler and Austin products placed on hold were taken off its shelves on Thursday.

"We pulled them all as soon as realized they were being recalled," he said.

West Des Moines- based Hy-Vee Inc. is holding the products until they receive more information about them.

The firm will "err on the side of caution. When something like this is not easily identified, we like to act in the best interest of our customers," says Chris Friesleben, director of communications.

That extends even to the firm's bakery items, she says." We have peanut butter cookies and other things we bake, and we're not even making those anymore in our bakery plant. We're going to suspend production for awhile."

Grocery stores in Mountain Home, Ark., have pulled the Austin and Keebler brand of peanut butter crackers off there shelves and some stores were offering customer refunds of the products.

"As soon as a recall is issued, we send it out to the stores," says Jim Wieland, director of pricing at Harps and Price Cutter Food Stores at its general office in Springdale, Ark.

For the full Kellogg list, see www.fda.gov/oc/po/firmrecalls/kellogg201_09.html

For FDA's Frequently Asked Questions list about the outbreak, visit:


Contributing: Jeff Martin, Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Greg Latshaw, The Daily Times, Salisbury, Md.; Ben Jones, The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wis.; Trevor Hughes, The Coloradoan, Fort Collins, Colo.; Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star; Gerald Carroll, Visalia (Calif.) Times-Delta; Joanne Bratton, The Baxter Bulletin, Mountain Home, Ark; Ron Barnett, The Greenville News, Greenville, S.C; Jordan Schrader, The Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times.