The peanut butter recall that began innocently enough with one Trader Joe's brand has expanded exponentially and now includes everything from crackers and cookies to gelato and tahini, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Almost 300 products have now been recalled in what the FDA is calling a "fast-moving outbreak" of salmonella-induced sickness in at least 19 states (including five cases in California).
The recall also has expanded to products containing other seeds and nuts, such as sesame seeds, cashews and almonds, as well as entirely new product categories such as several varieties of flavored butters and spreads, including Thai ginger butter, chocolate butter and banana butter. The FDA lists even more products here, including cookies, brownies, snack mixes -- even chicken spring rolls and peanut sesame noodles. Besides TJ's, brands affected include Kirkland (Costco), Fresh & Easy, Harry & David, Whole Foods, Natural Value, Newman's Own Organics, Oregon Ice Cream Co., Sun Harvest, Yogurtland and a bunch more.
The expanded recall was announced after the FDA revealed Friday that testing done on various production and manufacturing surfaces at the Sunland Inc. nut butter factory in Portales, New Mexico, showed the presence of salmonella. In fact, the recall covers all products manufactured in the Sunland plant after March 1, 2010. (Yes, your math is correct -- that's all products produced there in the last 2 ½ years.)
Salmonella outbreaks in peanut butter have a way of turning sticky fast -- note the Great Peter Pan Outbreak of Ought-Seven, which sickened hundreds and cost the manufacturer, ConAgra, millions.
The current outbreak strain -- Salmonella bredeney -- was identified by the Washington State Department of Agriculture lab in a jar of Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter collected from the home of one of 35 patients reported infected so far, the FDA said.
As we reported, the recall began Sept. 23 when the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control informed TJ's and Sunland of their findings. The next day, Sunland increased the recall to about 100 products, the FDA said. The company expanded the list to 240 last Thursday.
"Consumers should not eat the recalled products," the FDA said. "This is especially important for children under the age of 5 years, elderly adults and people with weak immune systems."
Customers with affected products should return them to the place of purchase for a refund or discard them, the FDA said. The agency, along with the CDC, is continuing its investigations, with cooperation from several state health departments.
What does Sunland have to say for itself?
"Sunland is dedicating all of its resources to the identification and correction of any conditions which have created the potential for salmonella contamination in any of our products," Jimmie Shearer, president and CEO, said Oct. 4. "We are reviewing every step in our manufacturing process and are confident that the expertise being applied to the investigation will enable Sunland to take any necessary corrective measures and once again produce products that families will enjoy with confidence."
Next time use a little Lysol on the counters, Jimmie.