Tainted Cantaloupe, Baby Food Recalled
Salmonella and botulism threats prompt latest U.S. food scares; peanut butter probe continuing
SATURDAY, Feb. 17, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The tainted-food scare widened Saturday with the recall of fresh cantaloupe and selected jars of organic baby food.
Dole Fresh Fruit Co. recalled several thousand cartons of imported cantaloupes after the fruit tested positive for salmonella, the bacteria involved in the nationwide peanut butter recall earlier this week.
Dole late Friday said the recall covered roughly 6,104 cartons of Costa Rican cantaloupes distributed to wholesalers in the eastern United States and Quebec between Feb. 5 and Feb. 8, the Associated Press reported. There were no reports of illness.
On Wednesday, ConAgra Foods Inc. recalled its Peter Pan peanut butter and batches of Wal-Mart's Great Value peanut butter after they were linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened almost 300 people in 39 states.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers late Friday not to use certain jars of Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast baby food because they may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism, a life-threatening illness.
The manufacturer, Hain Celestial Group of Melville, N.Y., initiated a recall on Feb. 9 of 4,072 cases of individual jars and 38,298 variety packs, the FDA said in a prepared statement. Production and distribution of the baby food has been suspended while the FDA and the company work to determine the source of the problem.
The food, part of the firm's "2nd Vegetables, Fruits and Blends" line intended for babies 6 months and older, was distributed through retail stores and sold through the Earth's Best Website, the FDA said
The agency urged consumers to throw away any jars they might have.
In the case of the cantaloupe recall, the FDA is urging consumers to wash the outer surface of cantaloupes and other melons with cool tap water before slicing into them.
Dole said the recalled cantaloupes have a light green skin and orange flesh, and were distributed for sale in bulk cardboard cartons, with nine, 12 or 15 cantaloupes to a carton. The recalled cartons are dark brown with "Dole Cantaloupes" in red lettering. They have a 13-digit number on a white tag pasted to the carton; the 10th digit is a "2."
Consumers with questions should call the store where they bought the cantaloupes or contact Dole at (800) 232-8888.
The affected baby food involves:
- Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley Wholesome Breakfast (4.5 ounce jars) 23923-20223 PFGJ14NP EXP 14 SEP 08 A
- Earth's Best Organic 2 Wholesome Breakfast Variety Pack (12 pack) 23923-20295 13 SEP 08
- Earth's Best Organic 2 Apple Peach Barley (4.5 ounce jars within 12 pack) 23923-20223 PF6J14 NP EXP 14 SEP 08 A.
Consumers who have questions should contact Hain Celestial Group at 1-800-434-4246.
Meanwhile, scientists went through ConAgra's peanut butter plant in Sylvester, Ga., Friday, to determine how Salmonella Tennessee got into batches of the spread that were made at that plant.
The company still has not determined how many jars are affected by a recall. The plant, shut down since Wednesday, is the sole maker of the Peter Pan brand and one of the producers of the Wal-Mart Great Value house brand, and the recall covers all peanut butter made at the plant since May 2006.
Consumers should toss out jars with a product code on the lid beginning with "2111."
The FDA is recommending that all affected jars of Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter purchased since May 2006 be discarded.
And supermarkets across the country have already pulled Peter Pan off their shelves.
How salmonella -- which typically comes from animal feces -- got into the processed peanut butter remains a mystery.
According to an AP report, rodents and birds sometimes make their way into peanut storage bins at the Sylvester plant, but any salmonella would be killed during the peanut roasting process, when temperatures exceed the 165 degrees needed to destroy the bacteria.
The outbreak appears to have started in August 2006, according to the FDA, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting the highest numbers of cases in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Missouri. About 20 percent of those sickened were hospitalized, and there have been no deaths.
According to CDC epidemiologist Dr. Mike Lynch, 85 percent of those who fell ill with Salmonella Tennessee said they had eaten peanut butter, and about a quarter said they ate it daily.
ConAgra announced that it has added extra capacity to its toll-free Consumer Affairs hotline (866-344-6970), which is set up to respond to consumer questions and concerns. Callers can also apply for refunds for products covered by the recall.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Salmonella can cause life-threatening infections in people in poor health or who have weakened immune systems.
Any such illnesses should be reported to state or local health authorities, the FDA said.
According to the CDC, there are an estimated 76 million cases of food-borne illness each year in the United States, the vast majority of which are mild and cause symptoms that last a day or two. Some cases are more serious, leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths annually. The most severe cases tend to occur in the very old, the very young, and those with weakened immune systems.
For more information on salmonella, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.