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125 food products containing peanut butter and peanut paste recalled

At least 125 products containing peanut butter and peanut paste from a Georgia plant have now been recalled because of possible salmonella contamination, with more expected, the Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday. They include foods found in practically everyone’s pantry, from ice cream to energy bars, chicken satay to dog treats.

A salmonella outbreak tied to products made by the Peanut Corporation of America has sickened at least 486 people in 43 states. Six deaths may be associated with the outbreak.

The latest recalled type of food is peanut-flavor pet treats. While dogs and cats can get salmonella from eating the treats, the biggest risk is to their owners, says Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA’s food safety program. People can pick up the bacteria on their hands and transfer it to their own food. It is important, especially for children, to wash your hands after feeding treats, Sundlof says.

In pets, as in people, salmonella can cause lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and bloody diarrhea. Pets can also be carriers of the bacteria with no visible symptoms, he says.

PCA is a small, family-owned and operated business headquartered in Lynchburg, Va. It has fewer than 50 employees in the Blakely, Ga., plant that tested positive for salmonella.

The fact that more than 125 products have been recalled so far underscores how problems from a relatively small company can have huge ramifications.

The FDA has said that PCA supplied peanut butter or peanut paste, which PCA later recalled, to 32 food manufacturing companies. The federal agency says it believes most of the affected products have been recalled. The agency is updating its Web site, sometimes hourly, with new recalls.

The FDA suspects that the Blakely plant is the sole source of the contamination. In an inspection, it found salmonella in the plant, but not the same exact genetic strain that’s making people sick. However, the Connecticut Department of Health did find an unopened tub of peanut butter from the plant infected with the outbreak strain.

Finding the genetic match in an unopened container of the product is generally considered the “gold standard” for outbreak investigations by epidemiologists.

Because peanut butter and paste have a long shelf life, it’s possible that the outbreak strain might have been in the plant at one point, living long enough to infect enough lots to account for the outbreak.

The discovery of any salmonella “indicates there are problems in the plant,” says Sundlof. “Those salmonella are not supposed to be there.”

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The following recalls have been announced:

• Country Maid Inc. is recalling two-pound packages of Classic Breaks peanut butter cookie dough, because the peanut butter in the dough could be contaminated with Salmonella. This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. No incidents have been reported. The dough was distributed to dealers for various fundraising groups around the country between Oct. 6, 2008, and Jan. 9, 2009. Details: by phone at 888-460-6904; by Web at http://www.classic-breaks.com.

• NutriSystem Inc. of Horsham, Pa., is recalling select lots of its branded 1.41-ounce peanut butter granola bars, because they could be contaminated with Salmonella. No incidents have been reported. The bars were distributed to customers nationwide through sales from the NutriSystem call center or Web site. Details: by phone at 866-491-6425; by Web at http://www.nutrisystem.com.

• Landies Candies of Buffalo, N.Y., is recalling a number of its products that contain chocolate and peanut butter because they could be contaminated with Salmonella. No incidents have been reported.

The recalled products are:

• 11-ounce bags of Landies Premium Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

• Wegmans Swiss Recipe Ultimate Peanut Butter Cups sold in 8-ounce tubs, bulk food bins and other packages.

• Wegmans Swiss Recipe Medium Chocolate Holiday Platter.

• Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter.

• Wegmans Swiss Recipe Large Chocolate Holiday Platter with Sponge Candy.

The Landies Premium Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups were sold at Wilson Farms stores under the Landies brand name. The various Wegmans brand products were sold at Wegmans stores. All were sold between October 2008 and January 2009. The recalled candies were available in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.

Details about the Landies brand candies are available at 800-955-2634. Details about the Wegmans brand candies are available at 800-934-6267, extension 4760.

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