About the salmonella outbreak
In mid-January, following several months of speculation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the link between a salmonella outbreak and peanut butter manufactured by Peanut Corp. of America. Since the first reported cases in September of last year, the outbreak is confirmed to have sickened 666 and killed 9. In Michigan, 36 people have been infected–the fifth highest number in the United States. Although the numbers are declining, the outbreak is expected to continue as people unknowingly eat recalled products.
“The large number of products and brands recalled already, and the large quantities of some products recalled, makes this one of the largest food recalls ever in the United States.” -U.S. Food and Drug Administration
View video on how the East Lansing community has dealt with the outbreak.
Peanut Corp. of America: potential criminal charges
Since the strain of salmonella was traced to a Georgia-based peanut processing plant owned by Peanut Corp. of America, more and more information about the company’s questionable business practices have come to light. Federal health officials recently announced that the plant knowingly shipped the salmonella-tainted products, prompting the FBI to conduct a criminal investigation with the FDA. The cleanliness of PCA’s plants has been under scrutiny; in a Texas facility health officials discovered dead rodents, excrement and bird feathers. The company has been hit with several civil lawsuits and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Feb. 13, meaning the company will likely fold.
CNN.com reports the troubling conditions of PCA's Texas-based plant. The peanut-processing company has since filed for bankruptcy.
East Lansing is impacted by salmonella fears
With Michigan among the highest in numbers for salmonella cases, with at least one confirmed in Ingham County, this national crisis hits close to home for East Lansing residents. Local businesses were forced to remove peanut products from their inventory after the recall, including the MSU Dairy Store. Workers at the Dairy Store in the MSU Union said although the peanut butter used in their ice cream was not on the FDA’s recall list the university still pulled it as a precaution. As a result, several flavors, including the highly popular Buckeye Blitz, weren’t available during the recall.
A worker at the MSU Dairy store scoops some Buckeye Blitz, a popular ice cream flavor that was recalled after the initial salmonella outbreak. Click on the image to hear how students responded to the recalls.
Other areas around the MSU campus also took precautions. All peanut products were removed from cafeterias, vending machines and Sparty’s Convenience Stores, prompting many students to change their diets as peanut butter no longer became available. [Click here to listen to students describe how they’ve responded to the recalls]
Zoom in to this map of MSU’s campus to see the eateries affected by the salmonella outbreak.
What kinds of food are affected?
Peanut Corp. of America does not sell directly to consumers, but to other companies for use in their products. The FDA said PCA’s tainted peanut butter and peanut paste “are common ingredients in cookies, crackers, cereal, candy, ice cream, pet treats, and other foods.” [Click here for the FDA’s list of recalled products related to the salmonella outbreak]
King Nut and Parnell's Pride peanut butters are among the extensive list of recalled products. Popular peanut butter brands like Jiff and Skippy are not affected by the salmonella outbreak.
Salmonella is a bacteria infection that causes a variety of symptoms, including:
These symptoms appear approximately eight to 72 hours after eating food contaminated with salmonella. The symptoms usually disappear with a week. Children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are the most likely to have severe infections. The UDSA provides useful information about what types of foods may contain salmonella, how to prevent it and what can be done to treat it.
By Hannah Emmert, James Andersen, Cory Smith and Steve Kelm