October 21, 2014

Minnesota Victim of Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak Hospitalized

One of the victims of the Salmonella Bredeney outbreak that has sickened 30 people in 19 states lives in Minnesota. That person, an adult from the Twin Cities metro area, was hospitalized in late July. These illnesses are associated with Trader Joe’s Valencia Peanut Butter, which was recalled last week.

Since the original recall, Sunland Inc. has been announced as the maker of the peanut butter. Many of that company’s products have been recalled; the recall was expanded yesterday to include other types of nut butters and whole peanuts.

“This outbreak will most likely grow, and more states will be included in the case count,” said attorney Fred Pritzker, who represents Salmonella victims nationwide. “The list of recalled products is also growing daily, with derivative recalls now taking place as a result of this collapse in food safety controls.” Pritzker has been contacted by potential victims of this Salmonella outbreak.

Salmonella infections can have life-long consequences. When the bacteria enters the blood, patients can develop bacteremia. The bacteria can then travel to other parts of the body and cause serious injury or death. Infection of the bones, meningitis, infection of the heart, pancreatitis, reactive arthritis, and pneumonia may result.

One of the strange things about this recall and outbreak is that the FDA has not acknowledged that Trader Joe’s Valencia Peanut Butter is the source of the outbreak. The CDC has stated that this product is the likely source of the outbreak.

Most of the outbreak victims shopped at Trader Joe’s before becoming ill, and most of them also ate that specific brand of peanut butter. Peanut butter has been a source of serious outbreaks and illness in the past.  In 2008-2009, King Nut Peanut Butter, made with peanuts from Peanut Corp. of America, was the source of a huge Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that sickened more than 500 people, hospitalized 116, and killed eight.

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Peanut butter can be contaminated with Salmonella in several ways. Feces from animals, especially birds, can contaminate the peanuts. Runoff from farms can contaminate the peanuts while they are growing. Roasting the peanuts before they are made into peanut butter will kill bacteria, but contamination can happen after that step, either by mishandling or problems in the facility, such as leaks in the roof or flaws in food safety controls, especially in plumbing systems. The bacteria can survive in peanut butter for months after it is introduced.

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