Local News

Cracker factory salmonella tests: 49 free of bacteria, one needs more work

Posted January 27, 2009 8:27 a.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2009 9:25 a.m. EST

— State officials said Monday that 49 of 50 samples taken to test for salmonella bacteria at a Kellogg cracker factory in Cary are clean.

One test is ambiguous and needs more work, said Joe Reardon, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He emphasized that the sample could not be classified as positive or negative and that scientists need several more days for more extensive testing.

The Cary plant is among many examined in a national scare about salmonella in peanut products from a processing plant in Georgia. Thousands of packages of peanut products have been recalled.

Two more cases linked to the case were reported in North Carolina last week, bringing the number of cases in the state to six, state health officials said.

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 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.

A number of tests conducted earlier this month have come back negative.

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.

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 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.