January 20, 2009

Salmonella Found In Peanut Butter Crackers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed on Monday that salmonella was found in a package of peanut butter sandwich crackers made by food manufacturer Kellogg Co.

The Austin Quality Foods Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter was one of 16 snacks the Battle Creek, Michigan Company voluntarily recalled last week because of the possibility of salmonella contamination.

So far, the salmonella outbreak has killed at least six people and sickened more than 470 others in 43 states. At least 90 people have been hospitalized.

The FDA has traced a source of the contamination to Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), which supplies peanut butter products to manufacturers and institutions, such as nursing homes.

The FDA said some samples of its products had tested positive for a salmonella strain that may have originated in a Blakely, Georgia, peanut processing plant.

After initiating several precautionary steps on Jan. 14, which included putting a hold on any inventory in its control and removing products from retail store shelves, Kellogg recalled several suspected peanut butter snacks and cookies two days later.

The products include peanut butter and jelly sandwich crackers, cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers, and peanut butter-chocolate sandwich crackers sold under the brand Austin or Keebler.

"Events of the last week suggest there was a breach in this supplier's process that is unacceptable to Kellogg, our customers and our consumers," said David Mackay, Kellogg president and chief executive.

"Kellogg will evaluate its processes to ensure we take necessary actions to reassure consumers and rebuild confidence in these products."

Kellogg said it does not use PCA ingredients in any Kellogg products outside of those already recalled.

Kris Charles, Kellogg's spokeswoman, said the company is focused on the recall and did not know how much the recall and subsequent confirmation could cost.

"At this time we don't have an estimate for the total cost of the recall," she said.

On Monday, Midwestern grocer and retailer Meijer Inc. said it was recalling two types of crackers and two varieties of ice cream because of the possibility of salmonella contamination: Meijer brand Cheese and Peanut Butter and Toasty Peanut Butter sandwich crackers, and Peanut Butter and Jelly and Peanut Butter Cup ice cream.

The products are sold in Meijer stores and gas stations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

The government on Saturday had advised consumers to avoid eating cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods containing peanut butter until health officials learn more about the contamination.

Officials said that most peanut butter sold in jars at supermarkets appears to be safe.

Meijer, based in Grand Rapids, said in a news release Monday it was issuing its recall because makers of its products had announced possible contamination.

Salmonella is the most common cause of food poisoning in the U.S., causing diarrhea, cramping and fever.

Over the weekend, Little Debbie maker McKee Foods Corp. of Collegedale, Tenn., issued a voluntary recall of its peanut butter crackers because of possible contamination.

Other companies issuing recalls recently include Midwest supermarket chain Hy-Vee Inc. of West Des Moines, Iowa, Perry's Ice Cream Co. of Akron, N.Y., and the South Bend Chocolate Co. in Indiana. Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products, a division of St. Louis-based Ralcorp, recalled several brands of peanut butter cookies it sells through Wal-Mart stores.


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