WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- A nationwide recall of peanut butter made in a Georgia plant was issued late Tuesday even as the number of people sickened by salmonella-contaminated peanut butter rose to 425 in 43 states.
Peanut Corp. of America, based in Lynchburg, Va., issued the recall of 21 lots of peanut butter for possible salmonella contamination. The product was made at a plant in Blakely, Ga., on or after July 1, 2008, and sold under the brand name Parnell's Pride and by the King Nut Company as King Nut, the Associated Press reported.
Peanut Corp., which also has plants in Virginia and Texas, makes the product for bulk distribution to institutions, food service industries and private label food companies.
The recall follows findings that bacteria in an open container of King Nut creamy peanut butter in Minnesota was a genetic match to the strain of salmonella that has struck across the country.
Meanwhile, state health officials said Tuesday that one death in Minnesota and two in Virginia were probably tied to the outbreak.
It's not known for sure that the three people, whose names and hometowns haven't been released, died from salmonella infection, but officials in both states said all three were infected with the outbreak strain, USA Today reported.
"This is a complex, widespread outbreak that appears to be ongoing," said Lola Russell, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For its part, Peanut Corp. issued a statement from its owner and president, according to AP. "We deeply regret that this has happened," Stewart Parnell said. "Out of an abundance of caution, we are voluntarily withdrawing this produce and contacting our customers."
On Monday, Minnesota health officials reported that lab tests on a tainted five-pound tub of peanut butter collected from a long-term care facility produced the genetic match. The Minnesota report, issued on its Department of Health Web site, was a follow-up to initial tests done last week.
Officials from the Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture had issued a product warning Friday after preliminary testing indicated the presence of salmonella in the peanut butter.
Late Saturday, King Nut, of Solon, Ohio, announced it had issued a recall of King Nut peanut butter and Parnell's Pride peanut butter with the lot code "8." Both brands are manufactured by Peanut Corp.
On Sunday, Kanan told the AP that the recall involved 1,000 cases of peanut butter.
Peanut Corp. had issued its own statement on its Web site late Saturday, confirming the salmonella finding. The statement added, however, that the finding "leaves open the possibility of cross-contamination from another source. PCA is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other agencies to determine whether the current outbreak could be at all related to products made in the PCA facility."
Reports of people sickened have occurred between Sept. 3 and Dec. 31, 2008, with most illnesses starting after Oct. 1. About 18 percent of those who fell ill were hospitalized.
The strain of salmonella has been identified as Salmonella Typhimurium, the most common of the more than 2,500 types of salmonella bacteria in the United States. It's often found in uncooked eggs and meats, said CDC officials.
The recall and the potential link to the multi-state outbreak come two years after ConAgra recalled its Peter Pan brand peanut butter, which had been linked to at least 625 salmonella cases in 47 states.
To learn more about salmonella, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCE: Jan. 12, 2009, news release, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Agriculture; Jan. 12, 2009, news release, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Jan. 10, 2009, statement, King Nut Company, Solon, Ohio; Jan 10, 2009, online statement, Peanut Corporation of America; Associated Press; USA Today