Arkansas Joins List of Salmonella Typhimurium Outbreak

(Little Rock)– Arkansas has joined the growing list of states affected by an ongoing outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium that began in early September. Four Arkansas residents have tested positive for the same Salmonella strain.  The cases are spread across the state with no apparent connection that can be determined.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today that 434persons infected with Salmonella Typhimurium with the same genetic fingerprint – indicating a common infection source – had been reported in 43 states.

Most of the illnesses began between September 3 and December 31, 2008. According to the CDC, hospitalizations occurred in about 18 percent of the cases. Five deaths have been reported.

State health officials are continuing to investigate the Arkansas cases and are looking for other potential cases linked to this outbreak. Nationally, the CDC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are working together with the states to identify the specific contaminated product  that is causing the outbreak.  Preliminary analysis of an epidemiologic study conducted by CDC and public health officials in multiple states suggest peanut butter as a likely source.  Ongoing investigations suggest that peanut butter-containing products may also be linked with illnesses.  To date, no association has been found with common brands of jars of peanut butter sold in retail grocery stores.

According to a press release issued today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, “Kellogg Company …announced it has taken the precautionary measure of putting a hold on Austin® and Keebler® branded Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Crackers, Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Sandwich Crackers.

FDA and other regulatory agencies have indicated that Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) is the focus of their investigation concerning a recent Salmonella outbreak thought to be caused by tainted peanut butter. PCA is one of several peanut paste suppliers that the company uses in its Austin® and Keebler® branded peanut butter sandwich crackers.

Kellogg Company’s investigation has not indicated any concerns, nor has the Company received any consumer illness complaints about these products.

Nonetheless, Kellogg Company is taking precautionary measures including putting a hold on any inventory in its control, removing product from retail store shelves, and encouraging customers and consumers to hold and not eat these products until regulatory officials complete their investigation of PCA and Kellogg provides further information as to the resolution of this issue.”

Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. Although most people recover without treatment, severe infections may occur, particularly in young children, frail or elderly people and those with weakened immune systems.

Last year, Arkansas reported 100 cases of Salmonella Typhimurium, with no deaths, to the CDC.

While the source of the bacteria in this outbreak has not yet been identified, the source of previous outbreaks associated with Salmonella Typhimurium – the most common type of Salmonella – include poultry, produce, raw milk and cheese, and contact with some kinds of animals, including small turtles and other reptiles.

State Epidemiologist James Phillips, MD, said, “The Health Department is working diligently in connection with the CDC.  This involves doing a detailed food recall of all foods consumed by these individuals for 72 hours before they became sick.”

Safe food handling is very important to protect people from foodborne illness.  Because foods of animal origin may be contaminated with Salmonella, people should not eat raw or undercooked eggs, poultry or meat, and should not consume raw or unpasteurized milk or other unpasteurized dairy products. Produce should be thoroughly washed.

Avoid cross-contamination of foods. Uncooked meats should be kept separate from produce, cooked foods, and ready-to-eat foods. People should thoroughly wash their hands before handling food and between handling different food items.

People who experience gastrointestinal illness should contact their health care provider or local health department, he said.

For the latest updates on the national outbreak, see the CDC Web site at