Possible Salmonella Deaths Rise to 11

Ohio claims to have passed California as state with most documented cases.

ByABC News
January 24, 2009, 12:26 PM

Jan. 24, 2008 — -- The number of deaths possibly linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak has risen to 11, with officials reporting new fatalities in Minnesota and Ohio.

In Minnesota, a long-term care facility patient in her 80s may have died because of the salmonella outbreak, which has been blamed on contaminated peanut butter found in a wide array of food products, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In Ohio, four additional deaths may be linked to the outbreak, which now has hit Ohio harder -- in terms of number of cases and deaths -- than any other state, officials said.

"Ohio has now surpassed California as the leading state, with 67 reported cases throughout 26 counties," the Ohio Department of Health said on its Web site. "Among the 67 cases there have been four reported fatalities. However, in only one of these fatalities salmonella has been listed on the death certificate as 'other significant condition contributing to death, but not the immediate or underlying cause.'"

Nearly 500 people in 43 states have been sickened possibly because of the salmonella outbreak, the CDC said.

Besides the five new deaths, six prior deaths have been reported by state health departments as being possibly linked to salmonella -- two in Virginia, one in North Carolina, one in Idaho and two additional cases in Minnesota.

More than 70 companies have used peanut butter and peanut paste from the Peanut Corporation of America's processing plant in Blakely, Ga., which is believed to be the source of the salmonella outbreak.

With more than 125 products already recalled, government investigators are scrambling to determine just how widespread the contamination might be.

"Even a small amount of material can find its way into a number of different food products," said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, the director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "That's just the nature of the food business. It makes our jobs much more complicated."