Investigation into peanut butter contamination continues

Stephanie Smith

In collaboration with other public health entities, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella Senftenberg infections linked to Jif peanut butter produced by The J.M. Smucker Company. So far, there have been 16 illnesses and two hospitalizations reported across 16 states, including Washington. Here is what we currently know about the outbreak and subsequent investigation.

On May 20, The J. M. Smucker Co. initiated a recall of 49 different Jif products with the lot codes 1274425-2140425 after reports of people ill with Salmonella Senftenberg. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed epidemiological information indicating that the early Salmonella Senftenberg infections were linked to one another. Four of the five people initially reporting illnesses had consumed different varieties of Jif peanut butter. Moreover, the strain of Salmonella causing the illnesses has been genetically linked to strains collected by the FDA during environmental sampling performed in The J.M. Smucker facility in Lexington, Ky., in 2010, where the recalled Jif peanut butter was made.

Since the initial recall, there have been numerous other products recalled that contained Jif peanut butter. These recalled products have included fudge, fresh-cut fruit and vegetables containing peanut butter, candy, snack packs and numerous other products. It is likely that additional recalls will be added until all of the products containing the affected peanut butter have been recalled.

Although only 16 cases have been identified, it is possible that additional Salmonella Senftenberg infections will continue as long as affected products are in consumers’ kitchens. Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, which generally begin six hours to six days after consuming the bacteria. Since most people recover without treatment within four to seven days, and do not seek medical treatment, there are likely far more cases associated with this outbreak than what has been reported.

The CDC is recommending people do not eat any of the recalled foods. If you have recalled food, you should throw it away or return the product to the store where it was purchased. An updated list of recalled products can be found online at bit.ly/3NNb3sQ or bit.ly/3m2Jtf4. Please check this list frequently since additional products are continuously being added. Be sure to wash surfaces that may have become contaminated with hot, soapy water and never feed the contaminated products to animals as they may transmit the Salmonella.

If you have eaten a recalled product, and you are feeling ill, you should seek treatment through your medical provider. Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, which can sometimes be bloody, a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit and vomiting. Additionally, you can report any suspected illnesses to the FDA’s Consumer Complaint Coordinator. They can be reached at (800) 353-3965.

More information on this recall can be found at bit.ly/3t7cwC8 and bit.ly/3xjgNE7. You can also sign up for notifications, including recalls, from the FDA by visiting bit.ly/3x0746y.

Smith is an assistant professor and statewide consumer food specialist for Washington State University. She can be reached at food.safety@wsu.edu. If you have a food safety question you would like to see in this column, send your question to us at food.safety@wsu.edu.

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