ConAgra Foods Inc., Omaha, Neb., on Feb. 14 began recalling Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butters because of salmonella found in the product. The peanut butters were made at the Sylvester, Ga., plant after May 2006.
Two people are believed to have died and hundreds have been sickened as a result of eating the peanut butter. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and several state and local health agencies linked 370 cases of foodborne illness in 42 states to consumption of the peanut butters. The first consumer may have become ill in August 2006.
The CDC told news agencies poor sanitation is the likely cause. Since the peanut butter itself is heated to temperatures high enough to kill any germs, the containers and packaging equipment are the prime suspects. CDC investigators noted a similar outbreak in Australia during the mid-1990s was blamed on unsanitary plant conditions.
The two elderly fatal victims include a Chicago area man and a woman from Philadelphia.
The company ceased production until the exact cause of contamination could be identified and eliminated.