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The sole source of the U.S. salmonella outbreak involving contaminated peanut butter appears to be the Peanut Corp of America's (PCA) Blakely, Ga. processing facility, Reuters reported, citing federal officials.
More than 125 products, including cookies, crackers, ice cream and even some pet food, have been recalled due to the outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.
Six deaths may be associated with the outbreak, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At least 486 people from 43 states and one person in Canada have been reported ill from the outbreak of the Salmonella typhimurium strain, and 107 of them have been hospitalized, according to Reuters.
Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said Connecticut health authorities tested an unopened container of peanut butter from the PCA's Blakely plant and discovered the strain linked to the outbreak of illness.
The fact that the unopened container had the strain indicates contamination didn't occur after it was shipped from the facility, Sundlof said. Coupled with previous evidence, he said authorities believe the Blakely plant is the only source of the outbreak.
"That is our assumption at this point. We will continue to follow up on any
leads that point us in a different direction," Sundlof told reporters during
a conference call.
The plant isn't currently operating, Reuters reported.
Despite this, Sundlof said he expects the number of recalled products to continue to increase. Among the latest was NutriSystem, Inc., which announced on Wednesday a voluntary recall of its peanut butter granola bar. On Tuesday, PetSmart, Inc. recalled seven of its Grreat Choice Dog Biscuit products. General Mills Inc., Kellogg Co. and other companies also have recalled products.
Authorities say peanut butter sold in grocery stores doesn't appear to be affected.
As Reuters reported, PCA has recalled peanut butter and peanut paste products manufactured since July at the Blakely plant because of the potential contamination. PCA manufactures peanut butter and peanut paste, which is then distributed to food manufacturers to be used as ingredients in commercially produced products. PCA peanut butter also is served in long-term care facilities and cafeterias.