The voluntary recall of dozens of products containing peanut butter and peanut butter paste has consumers wondering what's safe, what's not and what causes salmonella. Here's some help to wade through the gooey peanut butter mess.
How many people have been affected by this outbreak of salmonella?
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that six people have died and that there have been 488 cases in 43 states and Canada, with the last reported illness on Jan. 8. No cases have been reported in Florida.
What are the symptoms of salmonella?
Those infected with salmonella, a sometimes fatal infection caused by ingesting one of the various types of salmonella bacteria, will have such symptoms as fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Those who are hardest hit include infants, elderly people and those with weakened immune systems.
What products have been recalled?
The list of recalls — mostly voluntary — is quite long. Kellogg recalled 20 items, including several types of Austin peanut butter crackers, Famous Amos Peanut Butter cookies and Keebler Peanut Butter crackers; NutriPals Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars; several energy bars (Luna, Zone Perfect and Clif); several Wal-Mart Bakery brand cookies; and some varieties of Little Debbie sandwich crackers. For a link to the full list, go to links.tampabay.com.
What HAS NOT been affected by the recall?
The peanut industry has gone on the offensive to let the public know that there are still many peanut butter products that are safe to eat, including your Snickers bar and Reese's Pieces. Peanut butter in jars is not a part of the recall. Also on the list of products that are not part of the voluntary recall are Jif, Peter Pan, Kraft and Nabisco peanut butter products; Planters products; Girl Scout cookies; and Lance sandwich crackers. For the complete list, go to links.tampabay.com.
Where was the contamination found?
It was confirmed this week that salmonella was found in a single package of peanut butter crackers made by Kellogg. The crackers used peanut butter or peanut butter paste supplied by a Georgia facility of the Peanut Corp. of America.
Should I be worried about pet treats that contain peanut butter?
On Tuesday, PetSmart voluntarily recalled several varieties of its Grreat Choice Dog Biscuits because they contain peanut butter paste made by the Peanut Corp. of America. The recall included products that were sold from Aug. 21, 2008, through Jan. 19. And the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is advising pet owners to discontinue using peanut butter products in light of the salmonella outbreak.
Are public schools still serving peanut butter in cafeterias?
It really depends on which district you're in. In Pasco County, all peanut butter products have been removed from vending machines until it's determined the products are safe. In an abundance of caution, Hillsborough County's cafeterias haven't been serving peanut butter products since Tuesday morning. In Pinellas County, the peanut butter used does not come from the PCA but as a precaution, the district has asked high schools that sell peanut products in vending machines (i.e., peanut butter crackers) to remove them until the threat is over.
What can I do if I think I ate something that was contaminated?
You should report it to the Food and Drug Administration's Consumer Complaint Coordinator. In Florida, that toll-free number is 1-866-337-6272.
Sherry Robinson, who edits the tampabay.com online parenting page Go Momma and writes for the "Whoa, Momma!" blog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8305. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the American Peanut Council, the ASPCA and MayoClinic.com was used in this report. Staff writers Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Letitia Stein, Jeffrey S. Solochek and Donna Winchester contributed.