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Salmonella recall shouldn't be a black mark against peanut butter

The recent recall on peanut butter from a processing plant in Georgia should be viewed as an isolated food safety incident, not a ban on all peanut butter.

Michel Doyle, director of the UGA Center for Food Safety in Griffin, Ga., said that peanut butter has a long record of safety from harmful bacteria like Salmonella.

"It's important to realize this is a highly unusual incident, and peanut butter isn't a common vehicle for salmonella," he said. "This is a unique situation which will most likely be linked to the processing plant, not the peanuts. Peanuts are roasted to more than 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills Salmonella."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers on Feb. 14 not to eat jars of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter with a product code number of "2111" on the jar lids. Both affected brands were manufactured by the ConAgra Foods facility in Sylvester, GA. Great Value peanut butter manufactured at other facilities is not affected.

As of Feb. 13, 288 cases of foodborne illness in 39 states have been linked to eating varying types of Peter Pan peanut butter, according to the FDA.

The strain of salmonella involved in this case is Salmonella Tennessee, a bacterium that can cause foodborne illness. Doyle says the strain is named such because it was first identified in Tennessee.

"There are more than 2,100 different types of Salmonella," Mr. Doyle said. "The most common types are usually linked with meat, poultry and eggs. Salmonella Tennessee is not a common cause of human Salmonella infections.

Symptoms of salmonella include fever, diarrhea, abdominal craps and vomiting.

"About 20 percent of these cases have been hospitalized, and that's pretty high for salmonella outbreaks," Mr. Doyle said. "Typically, cases experience mild diarrhea for a few days and maybe some vomiting."

If you've recently eaten Peter Pan or Great Value brand peanut butter beginning with product code "2111" and have had any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or health care provider. Report your illness to state or local health authorities, too.

ConAgra is recalling all Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter with product code "2111." The FDA reports that the company has destroyed all the potentially affected products it had.

If you have Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter with the code "2111," you may get a full refund by returning the opened or unopened product to the store where you purchased it. Or you may mail the product lid with your name and mailing address to ConAgra Foods, P.O. Box 3768, Omaha, Nebraska 68103.

If you have questions or concerns about the recall, call the 24-hour toll free hotline at 1-866-344-6970.

Web posted on Thursday, February 22, 2007

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