Peanut Butter Salmonella Lawsuit Filed in Vermont

A Vermont family whose young son was hospitalized with <"">salmonella poisoning has filed a lawsuit against the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).  Peanut butter and peanut paste made by  PCA has been implicated in a salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 400 people across the country.

Salmonella is an organism which 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. In rare circumstances, infection with salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The parents of 7-year-old Christopher Meunier claim he fell ill in November, one day after eating Keebler Cheese & Peanut Butter Sandwich crackers. The little boy spent six days in the hospital and tests of stool samples came back positive for salmonella.

Christopher’s parents told the Associated Press that they only realized that their son’s illness was linked to the outbreak when they heard that the Kellogg Company had recalled several varieties of Keebler peanut butter snack crackers. According to the Associate Press, an investigator for the  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called Christopher’s mother over the weekend and told her the remaining crackers from the package should be tested, but that it might not happen for several days.

Kellogg is just one of several companies that have recalled peanut butter-containing foods this week.  The recalls were prompted by the discovery of salmonella at PCA’s Georgia plant last week   PCA makes peanut butter and peanut paste for 85 other companies.

The FDA has advised consumers to avoid eating any snacks made with peanut butter unless they can be certain the ingredient did not come from PCA. However, most peanut butter sold in jars at supermarkets appears to be safe, the agency said. To help consumers keep track of the ever-growing list of recalls, the FDA has created a searchable list of recalled products and brands on the agency’s Web site.

This would not be the first time tainted peanut butter has been implicated in a salmonella outbreak.  In February 2007, another salmonella outbreak prompted a recall of ConAgra’s Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butters. Those tainted peanut butters were  ultimately blamed for  600 cases of salmonella poisoning across the country. ConAgra faulted a leaky roof and malfunctioning sprinkler system at its production facility for causing the salmonella contamination. The plant in Sylvester, Georgia was closed due to the recall, but reopened later that summer.

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