(Web Editor’s note: This article is an updated, extended version of a story we first posted on Jan. 21)
(Jan. 23, 11:40 a.m.) Ready Pac Foods Inc., Irwindale, Calif., is recalling fresh-cut celery and apple products containing peanut butter that may have been contaminated by salmonella.
Ready Pac issued the recall Jan. 20 for products distributed to retailers in California, Utah, Illinois, Washington, Texas, New Jersey, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland. Ready Pac’s recall is part of a nationwide recall involving Lynchburg, Va.-based Peanut Corp.of America. The tainted peanut butter products were traced to its Georgia plant. In a news release, the company said no illnesses were traced to the products.
“One of our suppliers contacted us to let us know that they had sourced products (peanut butter) from PCA,” said Ali Leon, senior director of strategic business development. Leon could not say which supplier.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said they have traced a source of the outbreak strain to a plant owned by PCA, which manufactures both peanut butter and peanut paste. Products involved in the recall, according to the Food and Drug Administration, are served in long-term care facilities and cafeterias and also are distributed to food manufacturers to be used in many commercial products including cakes, cookies, crackers, candies, cereal and ice cream.
The plant does not produce jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores, but it could end up in packs of peanut butter sold as parts of other food items, such as peanut butter dip served with celery or apples, said Jill Hollingsworth, vice president of food safety programs for the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, D.C.
The first confirmed salmonella found in an unopened PCA peanut butter product was found by the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection the week of Jan. 16. Salmonella was confirmed in an unopened 5-pound tub of King Nut peanut butter, a product of PCA. The week before, the Minnesota Departments of Agriculture and Health confirmed laboratory tests that found the strain of salmonella in opened 5-pound packages of King Nut peanut butter, according to the FDA’s Web site.
According to FDA and Centers for Disease Control, DC, as of Jan. 21 UPDATE 486 people from 43 states infected with the salmonella strain since the outbreak started Jan. 8. Of those, 107 have been hospitalized, and six deaths are associated with the outbreak.
“The outbreak appears to be ongoing,” said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, during a phone conference Jan. 21.
H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, recalled H.E. Buddy apples with peanut butter with expiration dates of Jan. 16, Jan. 18-23, and Jan. 25-26. According to the company, the peanut butter in those products was supplied by PCA. There were no reports of illnesses linked to the products.
“We are strongly committed to ensuring the safety of our customers and of the products sold in our stores,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs and Diversity, in a statement. “The product has been removed from all our stores and will be returned only once it is completely safe.”
Other fresh-cut companies apparently weren’t affected. Church Bros. LLC, Salinas, Calif., which markets Disney-brand fresh-cut fruit snacks with peanut butter on a Mickey Mouse-shaped plate, buys peanut butter from another manufacturer, according to the company.
“We worked with out co-packers and they’ve verified with their suppliers that none of their products contain any peanut or peanut butter products from PCA,” said Matthew Caito, chief executive officer of Imagination Farms, Indianapolis, which owns the Disney licenses for fruits and vegetables.
Fresh-cut apple company Crunch Pak LLC, Cashmere, Wash., does not buy Peanut Corporation of America products either, said Tony Freytag, director of marketing.
Alan Newton, vice president of information services for Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc, Oviedo, Fla., said none of its fresh-cut products, including its cut celery, are sold with peanut butter.
“We don’t deal with any peanut products,” Newton said.
In a timely release, United Fresh Produce Association announced it is bringing back a course geared to helping businesses deal with outbreaks and recalls March 25-27. The course, “Training for a Recall, Communicating Under Fire,” is the sixth one the association has put on. Its timeliness with this outbreak is purely coincidental, said Patrick Delaney, communications manager.
“We do encourage anyone who is affected to come and see what we have to offer because we do teach important skills,” Delaney said.
The Ready Pac recall covers these items:
- Ready Pac Cool Cuts Celery with Peanut Butter 12/6.75-ounce, dated Dec. 28 to Feb. 2, with the Universal Product Codes of 077745-22415-2.
- Trader Joe’s Celery with Peanut Butter 12/6.75-ounce, dated Dec. 27 to Feb. 2, with UPC 0048-5401
- Trader Joe’s Celery with Peanut Butter 30/6.75-ounce, dated Dec. 27 to Feb. 2, with UPC 0048-5401
- Eating Right Apples with Peanut Butter 12/6.75-ounce, dated Dec. 27 to Feb. 2,UPCs 0-79893-70175-2
- Eating Right Celery with Peanut Butter 12/6.75-ounce, dated Dec. 27 to Feb. 2, UPCs 0-79893-70172-1
The HEB products in the recall, all labeled H-E-Buddy, are: