More peanut products recalled as probe continues

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 20, 2009 6:25am EST

Peanuts are seen in a handout photo from the Department of Agriculture. REUTERS/USDA/Handout

Peanuts are seen in a handout photo from the Department of Agriculture.

Credit: Reuters/USDA/Handout

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. food companies recalled more products containing peanut butter as the U.S. government continued its investigation into an outbreak of salmonella food poisoning that have may have contributed to six deaths.

General Mills Inc voluntarily recalled two varieties of peanut butter-flavored snack bars, saying peanut butter in the products was sourced from Peanut Corp of America (PCA) and may be contaminated with salmonella.

Illinois-based Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products recalled all Wal-Mart Bakery brands of peanut butter cookies sold in the in-store bakery sections of Wal-Mart Stores, as well as its Lofthouse brand and Food Lion brand peanut butter cookies.

Tennessee-based McKee Foods Corp said it was recalling two varieties of "Little Debbie" peanut butter sandwich crackers that could potentially be contaminated.

Michigan-based grocer and retailer Meijer recalled two types of its Meijer Brand sandwich crackers and two types of Meijer Brand ice cream sold in its stores and gas stations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it had traced a source of the contamination to a Blakely, Georgia processing plant owned by Peanut Corp.

The company produces peanut butter for use in nursing homes and cafeterias, as well as a concentrated product used in many commercially produced products, including cakes, cookies, crackers, candies, cereal and ice cream.

The FDA urged consumers to stop eating any commercially-prepared products made with peanut butter, or peanut butter served in institutional settings, saying it was still identifying products that should be recalled.

It said there was no indication that any national name brand jars of peanut butter sold in retail stores were linked to the recall, but said it would keep consumers updated.

General Mills, which also makes Cheerios cereal and Yoplait yogurt, said it was recalling Larabar Peanut Butter Cookie flavor snack bars and JamFrakas Peanut Butter Blisscrisp flavor snack bars. A combined 15,000 cases of product were involved, but no illnesses have been reported in connection with either product, the company said in a statement.

Kellogg Co said the FDA discovered salmonella in one package of Austin Quality Foods Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter that were recalled earlier, and said the contamination resulted from an apparent problem with its supplier.

The company at the center of the case, Peanut Corporation of America, on Sunday widened its recall of products to include peanut butter and peanut paste distributed to institutions, food service industries and private label food companies in 24 states, South Korea, Haiti and Canada's Saskatchewan province.

Other products distributed in other states might also have been affected, the company said.

As of Friday evening, 474 people had been reported infected by a salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter by public health authorities in 43 of the 50 U.S. states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Twenty-three percent of the known cases had resulted in hospitalizations and the infections may have contributed to six deaths, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Centers' division of Foodborne, Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases.

The very young, elderly and immuno-compromised were the most severely affected, he said in the teleconference.

Salmonella can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea and fever and it can kill the very young and very old.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Diane Craft)

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