Thursday, January 22, 2009


Peanut butter is clogging my mailbox, if not my arteries. Today there are nine new recall notices from the Food and Drug Administration of products containing peanut butter paste which might be contaminated with Salmonella typhimurium bacteria. Yesterday there were six new recalls, and the day before, four. .....I am losing count, but I believe that by now some 125 - 130 products have been recalled because of this outbreak. Some of these foods were distributed nationwide, and are particularly popular with children, as well as some of my neighbors and friends - foods such as peanut butter cookies, ice cream, candy, crackers and more. There have been close to 500 confirmed cases of illness so far in 43 states, and some 7 suspected deaths. Multiply that by ten and you are likely to be closer to the real numbers, since only a small percentage of this type of illness gets reported.

How did this happen? It is believed that the contamination occurred at the Peanut Butter Corporation's Blakey, Ga. plant (now closed). At least, a very similar strain of this bacteria was found in a crack in the floor, near where the pallets were stored. Mind you, that still doesn't explain how it got into the vats. What, the roasted peanuts, peanut butter or paste landed on the floor and were then scooped up and put back into the containers? My guess is that this is not the end of the story. There will probably be more twists and turns, as usual. Stay tuned... We are on the case.

I have given up my favorite peanut-butter oatmeal bars, and am avoiding chocolates with peanut butter (sigh...), just in case. At least it is good for that belly bulge that arrived during the holidays. At the rate things are going, what is not on the recall list today, will probably be there tomorrow. I am just glad that I am not in some nursing home, hospital, university or school with food service that received the large tubs of contaminated peanut butter. Several people in long-term care facilities have become ill, and of course, any additional illness is worse for them than for those of us that are healthy.

The nonprofit National Peanut Board says Americans eat 700 million pounds of this yummy stuff every year. Apparently millions of pounds have been recalled. If peanut butter follows the route of the nationwide spinach outbreak in 2006 or the 2007 tomato scare (no, not tomato but Jalapeno and Serrano pepper) , we are going to be eating a lot less of it in the future - at least for a few years. Poor Peanut Corporation of America. Plus the others that produce it. This little bacteria is going to cost them.

The list of suspect products is too long to reproduce. The growing list of recalls is on: This list has now expanded to include some pet treats as well - not so dangerous for Fido, but could be if a child handles the treat and then does not wash his or her hands afterwards before eating. Most likely not all the recalled products are contaminated, but all the small producers did use peanut butter or paste from the suspect factory in making them.

But there is a bright side - at least until we know otherwise. Apparently some peanut butter/paste products are safe for us to eat. Here are some of the companies that are swearing they don't use any peanut paste or butter from the Blakey plant in making their goodies, and, unless we find out otherwise, it is perfectly safe to eat them.

  • See's Candies of California, Hershey, Rees's and Russell Stover Candies.
  • Kraft products such as Nabisco and Planter brands.
  • Quaker Oats granola bars or snacks.
  • Products of Sport protein bar company PowerBar, a division of Nestle.
  • Energy Bars made by Bonk Beaker of California.
  • Tiger's Milk nutrition bars made by Schiff Nutrition of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Keep eating...


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