I did something today that I have been meaning to do - and putting off - ever since this peanut thing started (now by the latest count with over 500 people officially sickened in 44 states and 8 (or 9) dead. I started digging around to see what other outbreaks there had been in the U.S. food supply that were associated with peanut butter or products containing peanut butter or peanut paste.
I recalled that there had been one in early 2007 in Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter. But I was suprised to find that during this one actually 628 cases of related illness had been officially confirmed in 47 states. The number of deaths appears to be in dispute. The culprit there was Salmonella bacteria as well, with a slightly different DNA.
And then I read about all these other little incidents - 'micro alerts' or whatever you want to call them, going back to the early 1970's when peanut butter or products became contaminated but was dealt with quietly by the company itself,without even alerting government. The more you dig, the more you find. In fact, in one case all the peanut butter was quietly pulled back by the company and literally dug underground. Good fertilizer?
It seems that many of these 'incidents' had two features in common: damp conditions in the plant, and storage of the prepared product near to either raw peanuts or other contaminated food items.
Ugh, and just as I was really beginning to love peanut butter. My favorite sandwich: whole wheat bread with peanut butter, sliced banana on top. And I had finally found a great peanut butter cookie I could make in 5 minutes and pop it in the oven for a super quick bake...... Life is cruel.