WEDNESDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- The number of people sickened in the salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter products has now climbed to 486 in 43 states and Canada, with possibly six deaths, U.S. health officials said Wednesday afternoon.
Federal officials also confirmed Wednesday what they had first reported Sunday -- that the outbreak had been traced to a plant in Blakely, Ga., owned by Peanut Corp. of America. The company has suspended operations at the plant.
Meanwhile, peanut butter products continued to disappear from store shelves, as the weight loss company NutriSystem and one pet food producer joined the growing list of grocery chains and specialty companies issuing precautionary recalls.
The flood of recalls followed a U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning over the weekend that consumers should avoid peanut butter products containing peanut butter or peanut butter paste while the widespread salmonella outbreak probe continued.
The U.S. health warning is focused on products made with peanut butter or peanut paste, like crackers or cookies or ice cream.
Jars of peanut butter on store shelves appear to be safe, the agency said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, these were the latest precautionary recalls:
Meanwhile, Kellogg of Battle Creek, Mich., said Monday that tests confirmed salmonella bacteria in a single package of one of its recalled peanut butter crackers.
According to the Associated Press, Kellogg said U.S. health officials confirmed the finding in a packet of Austin Quality Foods Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter. The company had issued a major recall late last Friday for 16 of its products made with peanut butter, including Keebler cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers and Keebler and Famous Amos peanut butter cookies.
All the recalls followed a request late last week from the FDA for salmonella testing by food companies that may have bought peanut butter or peanut paste from the Peanut Corp. plant in Georgia.
On Sunday, the FDA said sources of salmonella contamination had been traced to the plant.
"At this time, the FDA has traced a source of Salmonella Typhimurium contamination to a plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), which manufactures both peanut butter that is institutionally served in such settings as long-term care facilities and cafeterias, and peanut paste - a concentrated product consisting of ground, roasted peanuts -- that is distributed to food manufacturers to be used as an ingredient in many commercially produced products including cakes, cookies, crackers, candies, cereal and ice cream," the agency said.
Peanut Corp. issued a wider recall over the weekend for more products and lot numbers relating to peanut butter and peanut paste products manufactured on or after July 1, 2008, at the plant.
"The products being recalled are sold by PCA in bulk containers ranging in size from five to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to product sold by the tanker container," an FDA statement said.
The FDA urged companies to inform their customers whether their peanut butter products have peanut butter or peanut paste obtained from the factory.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late Tuesday that the latest salmonella illness was recorded on Jan. 9 and that the victims range in age from younger than 1 to 98. Forty eight percent are female.
The strain of salmonella involved with the outbreak has been identified as Salmonella Typhimurium, the most common of the more than 2,500 types of salmonella bacteria in the United States.
The recalls 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.
On Sunday, ConAgra issued a notice that none of its products were at risk this time because the company does not buy from Peanut Corp. of America.
On Monday, J. M. Smucker, of Orville, Ohio, and Russell Stover Candies Inc. both said none of their products were at risk either for the same reason.
For a detailed and searchable list of the recalls, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
SOURCES: Jan. 21, 2009, news conference, Stephen Sundlof, D.V.M., director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Jan. 20, 2009, news release, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Jan. 18, 2009, news release, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Jan. 19, 2009, news release, Clif Bar & Co.; Jan. 19, 2009, news release, Abbott Nutrition; Jan. 18, 2009, news release, Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products; Jan. 17, 2009, news release, Perry's Ice Cream Co.; Jan. 17, 2009, news release, Hy-Vee Bakery; Jan. 14, 2009, news release, Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich.; Jan 10, 2009, online statement, Peanut Corp. of America; Associated Press