By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 22, 2009 - A long holiday weekend usually means a new flood of care packages to troops serving overseas, and traditionally those boxes include snack foods such as peanut butter crackers or candy. In light of the growing salmonella outbreak linked to products containing peanut butter, servicemembers are being urged to use caution should they receive these types of snacks.
"The ongoing commitment and efforts of citizens to remind the troops that America supports them is phenomenal," a Defense Department community relations spokeswoman said. "Based on my knowledge of the nonprofit groups that send care packages, I'm sure they will be vigilant and avoid shipping items that are being recalled.
"As an extra precaution, I would encourage servicemembers to discard any peanut butter products that may have been shipped," she added.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are suggesting that products produced since July 1 be avoided. To date, the outbreak has sickened about 500 people and caused six deaths since first being reported in early September, officials said.
The source has been traced to a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Ga. The company manufactures peanut butter and peanut paste that are distributed to food manufacturers for use in many commercially produced products including cakes, cookies, crackers, candies, cereal and ice cream, according to the Food and Drug Administration's Web site. Its products reportedly are distributed to manufacturers in Canada, South Korea and Haiti, as well.
"In addition, FDA and CDC are advising consumers to postpone eating all foods that include peanut butter such as cookies, crackers, candy and ice cream until more definitive information and comprehensive recall lists are available," Lola Russell, CDC spokeswoman, said. "Persons who think they may have become ill from eating peanut butter are advised to consult their health care providers."
Those infected typically experience diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection.
To lessen the possibility of infection, the CDC recommends people throw away recalled products in a manner that prevents others from eating them. These recalled products include Austin and Keebler brand peanut butter crackers and King Nut brand peanut butter produced since July 1. The company also sells peanut butter under the name Parnell's Pride.
The growing list of recalled items is available at http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm.
As a precaution for pet owners, some brands of pet treats that include peanut butter or paste also have been voluntarily recalled.