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.

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