Peanut Butter Recall: Bird Droppings May Be At Fault

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First there was a plain ol’ peanut butter recall, now it’s time for peanut butter crackers to come off the shelves. The Washington Post reports:

Cereal giant Kellogg has asked stores to stop selling its popular Keebler and Austin brand peanut butter crackers, as health officials reported two more deaths in the nationwide salmonella outbreak that is linked to peanut butter.

Kellogg, of Battle Creek, Mich., said it hadn’t received any complaints or discovered any problems with the crackers, but took the action as a “precautionary measure” after one of its peanut paste suppliers, Peanut Corp. of America, announced a nationwide recall of peanut butter made in a Georgia plant.

The crackers are Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Crackers, Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Sandwich Crackers.

The article says that the strain originated from a plant belonging to a supplier named Peanut Corp.

Peanut Corp. issued a statement from its owner and president, Stewart Parnell, according to the AP. “We deeply regret that this has happened,” Parnell said. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are voluntarily withdrawing this produce and contacting our customers.”

The strain of Salmonella found in the peanut butter, S. Typhimurium, is often found in uncooked meat and eggs, according to a CDC quote in the article.

How Does Peanut Butter, a Processed Food, Get Salmonella In It?

Scientific American has an article
explaining how salmonella makes its way into peanut butter.

Feces from some animal is a strong possibility. A leak in the roof, for example, caused one of the early outbreaks. How salmonella got into the water that was on the roof, no one knows for sure. Maybe birds, for instance, which accumulate around peanut butter processing plants.

The roasting of peanuts is the only step that will kill the salmonella. If contamination occurs after the roasting process, the game is over and salmonella is going to survive. Studies have shown that salmonella can survive for many months in peanut butter once it’s present. Fatty foods are also more protective of salmonella, so when it gets into the acid of the stomach — which is our first line of defense — it may not get destroyed. Peanut butter, being a highly fatty food, could survive better.

How could bird droppings leak into a food manufacturing plant? SciAm says it’s because many plants are more than 30 years old. They were airtight when they opened, but not any more.

They say the FDA is a troublesome organization. Here’s more proof that it needs to get its act together. The corporation was probably aware that its plant was old, but salmonella infesting peanut butter is very rare, so they didn’t think anything of it. The regulatory organization, however, is tasked with ensuring that food safety measures in its place. I hope that the FDA takes a hint from this latest failure.

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