Jan 252009
Authors: Shelley Woll

The recent outbreak of salmonella that has forced peanut butter products off the shelf nationwide has led university food providers to take precautions to avoid spreading the foodborne illness.

Pat Kendall, professor of food science and nutrition, said students should take caution when eating foods containing peanut butter, especially ready-to-eat products.

“The problem with this particular outbreak is that there are a lot of ready-to-eat products that are getting recalled or have been recalled,” Kendall said, adding that the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration advise calling manufactures first to make sure their product is safe.

“Only the ready-to-eat products like peanut butter crackers that you would find in your desk drawer are a concern,” she added.

The salmonella outbreaks have been traced back to a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia.

According to a release on it’s Web site, Peanut Corp. “distributed to institutions, food service industries, and private label food companies” across 24 states, including Colorado, along with provinces in Canada, Korea and Haiti. According to the release, none of Peanut Corp. products were sold directly to consumers.

Hundreds of products have been recalled since the first outbreaks in early January, including brownies, cakes, candy, cookies, crackers, energy bars, ice cream and even pet food.

Deon Lategan, director of Dining Services, said students should not worry about consuming food from the dining halls.

“We have been monitoring the FDA Web site and also the environmental services from CSU, and the peanut butter we use is not affected,” Lategan said. “However, there are ingredients of some products that there has been an voluntary recall on, and we have pulled those (products).”

Lategan said only granola products using peanut butter as an ingredient have been removed from dining halls.

“We are not providing them until they’re safe,” Lategan said. “We do use other products that have peanut butter in them like cookies, and our vendors have assured us that those products were not made from that batch that was contaminated.”

Dining Services is providing students with flyers and table cards on what to beware of concerning salmonella.

The on-campus convenience store Cam’s Lobby Shop was also affected by the outbreak.

Boxes of peanut butter products are piling up in the back room of the store in the Lory Student Center.

“We’ve had to pull a lot of stuff,” said junior Laura Fairbanks, a Cam’s employee. “We’re eventually going to send back all the items and get credit for them.”

Salmonella is a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps according to the CDC’s Web site. For most people salmonella can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but the elderly, children and people with weak immune systems are more likely to suffer seriously from the infection.

According to the Web site, currently 43 states have reported cases of salmonella, and nearly 500 people have been diagnosed, including 12 in Colorado since September.

Kendall said peanuts do not usually contain salmonella, which instead normally comes from animal flesh, particularly chickens or other fowl. Because of this unusual circumstance, she said she believes cross-contamination could have been the cause of the outbreak.

“There was an outbreak a couple of years ago with peanut butter and the source of that was traced back to some birds that were living on the plant’s leaky roof,” Kendall said. “Due to faulty irrigation, the grinding scissors of the peanut plant were contaminated, and that’s how the salmonella got into the peanut butter.”

Staff writer Shelley Woll can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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