CHICAGO (Reuters) - A widespread outbreak of salmonella from Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter has sickened 628 people in 47 U.S. states, but fewer people are falling ill, U.S. health authorities said on Thursday.
The outbreak, which came on the heels of a recall of bagged spinach contaminated with E. coli last year, touched off renewed debate about food safety when investigators linked the illnesses to peanut butter made at a ConAgra Foods Inc. plant in Georgia. ConAgra ceased production and recalled the product in February.
In mid-February the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had linked 288 cases of food-borne illness in 39 states to peanut butter consumption. By March 7, that total had climbed to 425 people in 44 states. As of May 22, some 200 more people in another three states were infected.
The CDC said the rate of new infections has tapered off and it urged people to immediately discard any remaining jars of Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter with a product code beginning with 2111.
“This outbreak demonstrates the potential for widespread illness from a broadly distributed contaminated product, one that had not previously been implicated in a food-borne illness outbreak in the United States,” the CDC said.
The infections were caused by a strain of bacteria known as Salmonella Tennessee. About 40,000 U.S. cases of salmonellosis are reported each year and about 600 people die of it, the CDC has estimated.
ConAgra, which made Great Value peanut butter for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., last month said it was renovating the plant where the recalled peanut butter was made.