By Steven Reinberg
FRIDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- An estimated 31 million pounds of peanut butter and peanut paste products have been recalled in the ongoing salmonella contamination scare, the Associated Press reported Friday.
As the number of people sickened in the salmonella outbreak approaches 500 in 43 states and Canada, U.S. health officials gave more detail on the scope of the outbreak that has been traced to a now-closed production plant in Blakely, Ga., owned by Peanut Corp. of America.
Peanut Corp. sells its peanut butter and peanut paste in bulk containers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported Thursday on its Web site that its investigation has determined that Peanut Corp. distributed potentially contaminated products to more than 70 firms, "for use as an ingredient in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream."
Jars of peanut butter on store shelves appear to be safe, the agency said.
But products made with peanut butter or peanut paste continued to disappear from store shelves this week, as more than 35 major food producers, retail companies, specialty companies and pet food suppliers issued precautionary recalls.
There is also a growing list of companies reporting that their products containing peanut butter are safe. The Girl Scouts of the USA, the Hershey Co. and Kraft Foods Inc. are telling consumers their foods haven't been affected by the salmonella scare, the New York Daily News reported Friday.
In addition, ConAgra, which was involved in a major Peter Pan brand salmonella recall two years ago, as well as J. M. Smucker, of Orville, Ohio, and Russell Stover Candies Inc. also reported their products were safe.
"We're getting lots of calls," said Michelle L. Tompkins, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts USA. The two bakeries that produce 200 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies each year don't use any PCA products, she told the newspaper.
The flood of recalls followed an FDA warning last weekend that consumers should avoid peanut butter products containing peanut butter or peanut butter paste while the widespread salmonella outbreak probe continued.
As of Thursday afternoon, the FDA Web site has a complete list of recalled products.
Peanut Corp. issued a wider recall over the weekend for more products and lot numbers relating to peanut butter and peanut paste products manufactured on or after July 1, 2008, at the plant.
"The products being recalled are sold by PCA in bulk containers ranging in size from five to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to product sold by the tanker container," an FDA statement said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the latest salmonella illness was recorded on Jan. 9 and that the victims range in age from younger than 1 to 98. Forty eight percent are female.
The strain of salmonella involved with the outbreak has been identified as Salmonella Typhimurium, the most common of the more than 2,500 types of salmonella bacteria in the United States.
For more on the outbreak, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.