FDA trying to crack salmonella outbreak - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

FDA trying to crack salmonella outbreak

By Wainwright Jeffers - bio | email

January 18, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - At least six people have died, and more than 400 people nationwide have gotten sick from salmonella poisoning.

Tubs of peanut butter and even peanut butter crackers have been pulled from all the floors at Phoebe hospital.

"The e-mail said red alert please pull all peanut butter products," said Chef Thomas Wild, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

Officials are focusing on peanut paste, as well as peanut butter, produced at a south Georgia facility owned by Peanut Corp. of America, as the cause of a possible salmonella outbreak.

"All the unit nurses have pulled all the peanut butter back and put it in a safe storage area with a sign on it," said Stephen Sundlof, FDA Food Safety Center.

It was distributed in bulk containers to hospitals, schools, and long-term care facilities.

"PCA has stopped all production at its Blakely Georgia plant. As of now there are no indications that the major national name brands sold in retail stores are linked to the PCA recall," said  Sundlof.

Federal health officials have urged people to avoid eating cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods that contain peanut butter until more is known about a deadly outbreak of salmonella contamination.

"We use peanut butter in many things, we use them when we do cookies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids over at the family tree," said Wild.

Officials say they have found traces of contamination at the Blakely plant but it's not confirmed if it's the same strain behind the outbreak.

"PCA has stopped production at its Blakely Plant," said Sundlof.

As the PCA takes precautions to stop the spread so does the hospital.

"In the hospital we want to be very careful, their immune system is already kind of down anyway," said Wild.

Pulling the product will ensure that food prepared in the hospital is safe.

Executive chef wild said they're not taking any chances.

"We will wait until we hear the all clear," said Wild.

That peanut butter was distributed in 17 states, including Georgia, but none of it was sold directly to consumers.

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