The number of people sickened by the nationwide salmonella outbreak has grown to more than 500, and seven deaths have been connected with the outbreak. As health officials investigate the source of the contamination, naturals companies not connected to the suspected source of the outbreak are getting the word out that their products are safe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, investigators in Georgia and Connecticut both isolated salmonella matching the one in the outbreak in containers of King Nut peanut butter, produced by Peanut Corporation of America in Blakely, Ga. Fifteen clusters of infections in five states have been reported in schools and other institutions, such as long-term care facilities and hospitals. The CDC reports that, for the 14 clusters for which detailed information is available, King Nut is the only brand of peanut butter used in those facilities.
Because PCA sells peanut butter and peanut paste to other food manufacturers, a number of finished products have been recalled, reaching into categories from ice cream to energy bars. A list of recalled products can be found on the CDC website: http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html#products.
While recall-affected companies have had to pull products, others are busy getting the word out that their products are still safe to consume. Energy bar manufacturer Jay Robb Enterprises of San Diego sent out a press release Friday, Jan. 23, assuring, "We are happy to report that none of the peanut ingredients that Jay Robb Enterprises Inc. uses are affiliated with PCA and that we are not affected by this issue."
For smaller companies, it can be a struggle to get the "we're safe" word out to consumers. "There isn't a whole lot a small company like ours can do. I put together a letter I sent to all our trade partners," said Bahram Shirazi, owner of Q.bel Foods, in Nyack, N.Y. The startup company makes all-natural crispy candy bars with chocolate and peanut butter. Shirazi said he is also doing his best to reply immediately to any consumer e-mail inquiries.