Feb 182007
 
Authors: James Baetke

U.S. health officials have ordered the recall of Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter after nearly 300 people may have contracted Salmonella poisoning from the spread.

Ten of the confirmed cases are from Colorado, and all assumed poisonings have come from peanut butter jars labeled with a product code “2111” on lid tops. Thirty-nine states have been affected by the outbreak.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is warning shoppers not to buy either brand of peanut butter and to dispose of any contaminated spread currently in cabinets.

Kim Meyer-Lee, regional epidemiologist with the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, said there are no confirmed cases of the outbreak in Larimer County but the agency is fielding calls from concerned consumers.

So far there has been only one complaint that contaminated jars are not being tossed. Meyer-Lee said she took a call Thursday from a concerned mother who said her child might have ingested tainted peanut butter at day care.

Some consumers who think they may be ill from the outbreak are instructed to keep the suspect peanut butter for later testing.

Great Value is sold by Wal-Mart but produced and processed by Peter Pan’s ConAgra plant in Georgia. The company has voluntarily stopped the production and sale of the peanut butter until further investigation.

Similar day care complaints are reaching the state health department, said Lori Maldonado, CDPHE spokeswomen.

“For the most part, grocers are good about following protocol,” said Lori Maldonado, CDPHE spokeswoman.

Salmonella cases have been found in Arapahoe, Broomfield, El Paso, Denver, Freemont, La Plata and Weld counties. Maldonado expects more Colorado instances to be reported in the weeks to come.

Salmonella Tennessee is a bacterium that causes food-borne illness. Symptoms can include diarrhea, fever, dehydration, abdominal pain and vomiting. Consumers who experience these symptoms after eating the affected peanut butter should contact their healthcare provider immediately, according to the CDPHE.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out a nation-wide alert Thursday instructing grocers, consumers and distributors of the outbreak.

The CDC warns people with poor underlying health or weakened immune systems that Salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections.

ConAgra is offering refunds to consumers who send them lids containing the particular product code.

“Although none of our extensive product tests have indicated the presence of Salmonella, we are taking this precautionary measure because consumer health and safety is our top priority,” said Chris Kircher, spokesman for ConAgra Foods, in a statement. “We are working closely with the FDA to better understand its concerns, and we will take whatever additional measures are needed to ensure the safety, quality and wholesomeness of our products.”

Officials with the FDA said they have sent investigators to ConAgra’s processing plant where the products are made to review records, collect product samples and conduct tests for Salmonella in order to positively confirm and locate the direct cause of the contamination.

City editor James Baetke can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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Consumers with questions or concerns about the recall can call the 24-hour ConAgra toll-free hotline at 866-344-6970. For more information about Salmonella, visit www.ific.org.

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