By Jill Terrerifirstname.lastname@example.org
Possibly tainted peanut butter that has caused illness in almost 300 people nationwide has been sold in Western New York.
So far there have been no confirmed cases of salmonella that can be linked to the peanut butter in Niagara County, according to Interim Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton.
Erie County, meanwhile, has had six confirmed cases of salmonella since August, five of which have tested positive to the strain linked to the peanut butter outbreak, according to Kevin Montgomery, public information officer for the Erie County Department of Health.
“Up until yesterday we weren’t even aware of the peanut butter connection,” Montgomery said Thursday.
All of the patients in Erie County who tested positive for salmonella were hospitalized and released.
Nationwide, cases linked to the peanut butter began in August and has affected residents of 39 states.
The affected jars of peanut butter, sold under the Peter Pan and Great Value brands and manufactured by ConAgra Foods, bear serial numbers on the lids beginning with “2111”.
These jars have been sold in stores in Western New York.
The manufacturer has voluntarily recalled the product and is asking consumers to discard the jars.
“Although none of our extensive product tests have indicated the presence of salmonella, we are taking this precautionary measure because consumer health and safety is our top priority,” said Chris Kircher, spokesperson for ConAgra Foods.
Wegmans has pulled all Peter Pan peanut butter off the shelves in its Western New York stores, regardless of their lot numbers, said spokeswoman Ann McCarthy.
Tops pulled jars that were stamped with serial numbers beginning in 2111.
Both companies are accepting returns on the products at their stores.
McCarthy suggested that customers return the entire product to the store, not just the lid, to make the return easier to process.
Great Value, sold in Wal-Mart stores, was also affected, but only if it was manufactured by ConAgra.
The affected peanut butter jars have been pulled from the shelves at Wal-Mart as well. The company has also put a mechanism in place to alert cashiers not to sell the product in case it is scanned at the check-out, according to Wal-Mart spokeswoman Marisa Bluestone.
The outbreak has been linked to peanut butter produced in a single ConAgra plant in Sylvester, Ga.
The recall was prompted by a statistical report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the peanut butter could be linked to salmonella.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is investigating how the peanut butter became contaminated.
Salmonella can result in severe diarrhea that can last from four to seven days but it usually does not require hospitalization. Symptoms, including fever and abdominal cramps, develop 12 to 72 hours after infection.
Children, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems are more likely to develop a severe case, where the infection invades the bloodstream and causes life-threatening conditions.
Dr. William Baier, of Lockport Pediatrics, said his office was inundated Thursday with calls from patients’ parents concerned about the outbreak.
Baier thinks the matter has been “blown way out of proportion.”
“Usually it will go away all by itself,” Baier said of the infection.
Federal health officials have information on 120 patients. Of that pool, 26 percent were hospitalized. None has died.
For a refund
Tops and Wegmans stores are accepting jars of Peter Pan peanut butter for a refund. Consumers can also mail the lid of the peanut butter jar along with their name and mailing address to ConAgra Foods, P.O. Box 57078, Irvine, CA 92619-7078.
Customers with questions for ConAgra can call 1-866-344-6970.