CDC Ties 23 Illnesses to Malt-O-Meal Cereals

<"">Salmonella tainted cereal has sickened nearly two dozen people in 14 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  The outbreak has been linked to recalled cereal made by the Malt-O-Meal Company.

Salmonella bacteria cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 72 hours of exposure. Children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to complications from salmonella poisoning. In rare cases, extreme instances of Salmonella poisoning can lead to a disease called Reiter’s Syndrome, which is associated with chronic arthritis. According to the CDC, Salmonella bacteria sicken 40,000 people every year. Although the true number could be much higher, because it is estimated that for every case of Salmonella poisoning reported, two others are unreported.

On April 5, cereal maker Malt-O-Meal voluntarily recalled some packages of unsweetened Puffed Rice and unsweetened Puffed Wheat cereals due to possible salmonella contamination. The packages at risk have “best if used by” dates from April 8, 2008 (coded as APR0808) through March 18, 2009 (coded as MAR1809); affected Malt-O-Meal bags of cereal were produced in the past 12 months in Northfield, Minnesota. The recall was prompted by internal food safety tests that found salmonella in a product produced March 24, 2008. Malt-O-Meal issued the recall as a precaution. Three people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, according to the CDC. The recalled Malt-O-Meal products were distributed nationally under the Malt-O-Meal brand name and were also distributed under private labels that include Acme, America’s Choice, Food Club, Giant, Hannaford, Jewel, Laura Lynn, Pathmark, Shaw’s, ShopRite, Tops, and Weis Quality. Consumers with products from the recalled lots are advised to throw them out; retailers have been advised to remove the cereals from their shelves.

According to the CDC, 23 people have been sickened with the same strain of salmonella detected in the recalled cereal.  Three have been hospitalized, but there have been no deaths.  Salmonella  contamination has been reported from a number of sources in recent years. Last year, raw tomatoes served at restaurants around the country sickened dozens. And this summer over 700 people in the Chicago area became ill from salmonella after they ate at the Pars Cove Restaurant food booth at the Taste of Chicago Food Festival. Other Salmonella outbreaks   have also been linked to Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter, and to Banquet Pot Pies, all of which were made by ConAgra Foods.

According to the Malt-O-Meal Company,  an investigation began immediately after the salmonella contamination was discovered to determine the cause of the situation. A press release from Malt-O-Meal said they have determined a “root cause” and corrective measures have been taken to ensure there won’t be a reoccurrence of this issue.

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