Local News

Two more cases of salmonella reported in N.C.

Posted January 21, 2009 12:55 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Two more cases linked to national salmonella scare involving peanut butter-based foods have been reported in North Carolina, bringing the number of cases in the state to six, state health officials said Wednesday afternoon.

At least 485 people – 107 of whom were hospitalized – in 43 states and Canada have become ill since August. Six have died, including one person from Catawba County, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The latest cases in North Carolina are in Onslow and Vance counties; previously reported cases were in Brunswick, Caldwell and Robeson counties. Among those infected was a 3-year-old child. Three of those patients, including the one who died in November, had been hospitalized.

Meanwhile Wednesday, state scientists were helping to track down the source by looking at companies that make food with the peanut butter in question.

Joe Reardon, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said microbiologists were testing an additional 51 samples of peanut butter products from a Kellogg's cracker plant in Cary to determine if the facility is contaminated by the bacteria.

The Kellogg's plant receives peanut butter and peanut paste from a Georgia plant, owned by Peanut Corp. of America, to which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has traced the contamination.

The state is looking at 37 shipments of 47,000 pounds of peanut butter that the plant received since August.

A number of tests conducted earlier this month have come back negative. Preliminary results from the final round of tests should be available by Friday, Reardon said.

"We will have answers in the next 24 to 48 hours, and we're very interested," Reardon said. "We'll contact the FDA and CDC and share that information."

Within the past week, a number of food companies such as Kellogg's and retailers such as Harris Teeter and Kroger have pulled products with peanut butter off the shelves as a precautionary measure.

The FDA said Wednesday afternoon the list of products recalled is now more than 125.

Kellogg Co. produces Keebler, Austin and Famous Amos brand snack crackers containing peanut butter. It confirmed Monday that salmonella had been found in a pack of Austin Quality Foods Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter, but did not say which factory made that package.

Other affected brand names include select products from Clif Bar, Luna, Nutrisystem and ZonePerfect. More products are being added on a daily basis. The FDA has a complete, searchable list on its Web site.

The investigation into the scare started earlier this month after lab tests found salmonella in an open 5-pound container of peanut butter from a Minnesota nursing home. Testing that the state's Public Health Laboratory completed on Jan. 12 showed a genetic match with the bacterial strain tied to 30 illnesses in Minnesota and others across the country.

The CDC has said the bacteria behind the outbreak is common and not an unusually dangerous strain, but that the elderly or those with weakened immune systems are more at risk.

At least five of the six people who died were elderly. All had salmonella when they died, though their causes of death haven't been determined.

Symptoms of salmonella infection usually begin within three days of exposure to the bacteria and generally last less than a week. In the North Carolina cases, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services, lab results were received after most of the patients had recovered.