Peanut Butter Pulled from Starbucks

The ongoing and massive U.S. <"">salmonella outbreak that has claimed seven lives has now prompted Starbucks to pull all of its peanut butter products from its shelves, reports Reuters today.

Starbucks told Reuters it pulled all of its peanut butter-containing products from stores in the U.S. and Canada as a precautionary step, but noted that its products are not affected by the recall, which involves peanut butter and peanut butter paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).  Starbucks said that although PCA is not one of its suppliers it has removed its protein plate, granola bars, and peanut butter cookies from shelves, said Reuters.

PCA produces peanut butter for use in nursing homes and cafeterias as well as producing a concentrated peanut-derived paste that is also used in a variety of other products including items for human and pet consumption, said Reuters in an earlier piece; PCA supplies ingredients to 85 food firms.  Federal health officials say that 31 million pounds of peanut butter and peanut paste are involved in the recall.

The most recent death was of an 80-year-old woman from Minnesota.  The woman’s name and her date of death have not been released, but it is known that she was living in a long-term care facility, according to a Minnesota Department of Health representative, who added that he was unsure if the woman ingested peanut butter, said Reuters.

The PCA is located in Blakely, Georgia and has been deemed the sole source of the nationwide outbreak, which has affected over 125 products, infected 491 people, and spread over 43 states, according to federal officials, reported Reuters.

Because the list of recalled items continues to grow and to better enable consumers to determine which products are involved in the massive recall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set up a Website with a searchable database where consumers can keep track of the ever-growing list of peanut butter-related salmonella recalls.  The FDA is also warning consumers to avoid eating any foods with peanut butter until the salmonella investigation is complete; however, the agency said that peanut butters sold in retail stores are safe because PCA only supplied peanut butter and paste to food service firms and institutions.

The salmonella strain involved in this particular outbreak—Salmonella typhimurium—is the same strain responsible for the 2007 wide-scale outbreak that sickened over 400 people in over 40 states, WebMD previously reported.  In that case, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that undercooked, not-ready-to-eat Banquet brand frozen potpies were to blame.  Also, last year’s huge salmonella outbreak that was finally traced to Mexican peppers and was first blamed on tomatoes, was linked to salmonella Saintpaul, a different salmonella strain than is involved in the current cases.  Salmonella typhimurium can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.  Healthy persons infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

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