Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Organic Nut Butter

PHOTO: JEM Raw is recalling nut butters after health officials found a likely link to a salmonella outbreak.
JEM Raw is recalling nut butters after health officials found a likely link to a salmonella outbreak.

A salmonella outbreak linked to an organic line of nut butters has sickened 11 people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Health officials are investigating the link to the JEM Raw Chocolate, LLC brand of nut butters. According to the company’s press release, which has been posted by the Food and Drug Administration on its website, “JEM Raw has initiated a voluntary recall of all products and sizes, packaged in glass jars, and sold under brand name JEM Raw Organics.”

"We are taking these steps because consumer safety is our top priority," Jen Moore, co-founder and CEO of JEM Raw, said in a statement. "As a health food company, our customer’s health is our number one priority."

The company said no JEM Raw products have directly tested positive for salmonella but that it is working with the FDA and health officials to determine the cause of the outbreak.

Health officials have interviewed eight people who fell ill. The CDC reports that six of those interviewed had exposure to a JEM Raw brand sprouted nut butter in the week before they developed symptoms. Those affected range in age from 1 year to 79 and all reported feeling ill between July 18 and Oct. 15. There have been no hospitalizations or deaths reported in connection with the outbreak.

"This contaminated item has been widely distributed over a fairly wide period of time, it looks like a low level of contamination," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University. "It's not a huge outbreak [but] it's substantial."

Schaffner said that young children and the elderly were most at risk of infection. Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, according to the CDC.

Schaffner explained that it's possible salmonella might be protected in nut butters because of how the food interacts with the digestive system.

"The salmonella tend to survive in the peanut butter and may be more likely to be protected from the acid environment in the stomach and set up infections" in the intestinal system, he explained.

The CDC advises that consumers throw away any of the recalled nut butter spread they may have, even if some of it has been consumed and no one has gotten sick.