2009-01-14 / Front Page

Officials pointing to Blakely plant in 43-state salmonella outbreak

According to news stories in Monday's major media outlets, a major salmonella outbreak has been linked to peanut butter from Peanut Corp. of America, a Virginia-based company with a plant in Blakely.

An Associated Press story in Tuesday's

Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated federal investigators have conclusively linked salmonella bacteria to peanut butter manufactured by PCA.

The outbreak has reportedly sickened over 400 people in 43 states. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that about one in five salmonella victims had been hospitalized. They had not confirmed any deaths associated with the outbreak.

Monday, however, a CDC spokesman said the salmonella poisonings may have contributed to three deaths. And Virginia and Minnesota health officials confirmed Tuesday that three deaths in those states were associated with the salmonella outbreak.

Stewart Parnell, the president of the Virginia-based Peanut Corporation of America, said Monday in a statement the company was working with federal authorities to determine whether its products are connected to the national outbreak.

The company's peanut butter is produced at their facility in the industrial park on Highway 62 east of Blakely. The facility also produces a wide variety of roasted peanuts for the food industry.

The peanut butter was distributed to care facilities, hospitals, schools, universities and restaurants. It was not sold directly to consumers.

King Nut Companies, which distributes peanut butter to seven states, has stopped distribution of all peanut butter under its King Nut and Parnell's Pride brands with a lot code that begins with the numeral "8."

While the only source of salmonella mentioned in any of the articles has been in a five-gallon container in Minnesota, and officials seem to be pointing their fingers exclusively at PCA, another article Tuesday stated the CDC was working with public health officials in the 43 affected states to determine the cause of the outbreak in those areas.

The report of peanut butter contamination comes almost two years after ConAgra recalled its Peter Pan brand peanut butter, which was eventually linked to at least 625 salmonella cases in 47 states.

PCA's other plants are located in Plainview, Tex., and Sulffolk, Vir., where they provide bulk peanut roasting and blanching services.

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