Peanut butter panic

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Several area grocery stores reported Thursday they have removed brands of peanut butter that may be linked to salmonella.

Nearly 300 people in 39 states have fallen ill since August, and federal health investigators said they strongly suspect Peter Pan peanut butter and certain batches of Wal-Mart’s Great Value house brand — both manufactured by ConAgra Foods Inc.

The lot number of the jars in question begin with 2111.

No illnesses related to the recall have been confirmed in eastern New Mexico, but a spokeswoman at Roosevelt General Hospital in Portales said the hospital treated one case of suspected salmonella over the weekend. Officials are working with the New Mexico Environment Department to investigate whether it is related to peanut butter.

“We don’t know for 100 percent that it was related to peanut butter,” said Tonya Burton, infection control nurse at RGH.

She said she was unable, due to privacy concerns, to give the age or any other information on the patient. She added the person was recovering.

Several grocery stores contacted in the Clovis/Portales area reported they stocked the peanut butter in question but have removed it from their shelves.

Ray Madrid, assistant manager at Wal-Mart in Portales, said workers pulled the peanut butter with the recall code early Thursday morning as soon as they learned of the recall.

Madrid said customers could return the recalled peanut butter for a refund or his store would exchange it.

Clovis Wal-Mart officials referred inquiries to its corporate offices. A statement on Wal-Mart’s Web site directed all stores to remove the impacted brands and as a precautionary measure a sales restriction linked to store scanners had been put in place that would flash an alert if an affected jar was scanned.

At S&S Supermarket in Clovis, store owner Kyle Brewer confirmed that peanut butter with the recall numbers had been pulled from his store’s shelves.

“We pulled it this morning and boxed it up to send back to the warehouse,” Brewer said. “Almost all of ours (included) those numbers.”

He said customers who had already opened a jar should send it back to ConAgra. He said his store would take unopened jars back.

Tim Russell, manager at Russell’s Super Save in Portales, said his store was operating under the same policy.

The New Mexico Environment Department said it had confirmed only one case of salmonella linked to the affected brand of peanut butter. That case, involving an adult, was reported in December in Valencia County. There have been 288 cases nationwide related to the recall.

“The Environment Department’s Food Program staff visited and called stores in New Mexico today (Thursday) to make sure grocers remove those products from shelves,” NMED secretary Ron Curry said. “We’re working with the Department of Health to make sure New Mexicans are aware of this and can avoid becoming ill.”

Fast Facts

• Peter Pan and Wal-Mart’s Great Value house brand peanut butter with a product code beginning with 2111 are affected by recall

• Recalled peanut butter is from a ConAgra Foods plant in Sylvester, Ga.

• 288 cases of salmonella linked to peanut butter have been reported in 39 states, including New Mexico

• For a refund: send lids only, along with name and address to ConAgra Foods, P.O. Box 57078, Irvine, CA 92619-7078

• (866) 344-6970 or www.conagrafoods.com for more information

Source: Associated Press

Symptoms of salmonella infection

• Fever

• Diarrhea

• abdominal cramps

In persons with poor underlying health or weakened immune systems, salmonella can invade the bloodstream and cause life-threatening infections. People who become sick with an illness suggestive of salmonella infection should call their doctor.

Information on the outbreak: www.fda.gov/opacom/7alerts.html

Source: New Mexico Environment Department