Salmonella scare spurs area stores into action

Prompted by the national recall of peanut-based foods, local grocery stores and food banks have taken precautionary measures and removed some brands of peanut butter and related items from their shelves.

Thirty-one million pounds of peanut butter from the Peanut Corporation of America have been listed for recall by the Food and Drug Administration after salmonella typhimurium bacteria was found in some PCA containers. No salmonella cases have been linked to the outbreak locally.

Store managers report they pulled potentially infected products from shelves as early as last week. Terry Allphin, store manager of Sherm's Food 4 Less in Medford, said the items — mostly Keebler snack foods — were removed, destroyed or shipped back to manufacturers last week.

"It's gone," said Allphin. "It was out of here last Sunday. We react quickly to any product recall."

Allphin said the Food and Drug Administration sent out a list of companies that manufacture products that could potentially contain the bacteria. But only a few, such as the Keebler products, were carried inAllphin's store.

The recall does not affect peanut butter in containers of less than 5 pounds. Major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores, such as Adams and Skippy, are not being recalled.

Peanut-based paste products that have been found in several popular sweets and snacks now listed on the recall include Little Debbie Peanut Butter and Cheese Sandwiches, Keebler Soft Batch Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies and several varieties of Clif Bars, the FDA says on its Web site.

None of the items pulled by ACCESS Inc., which manages local food banks, are currently listed on the FDA's recall list. However, the agency wanted to ensure that all of its peanut butter and peanut-based foods are safe to distribute to clients in need, said Philip Yates, ACCESS Inc. Nutrition Programs Director.

ACCESS Inc. receives about half its food from the Oregon Food Bank. The OFB is currently not distributing any products with ground-processed peanuts as an ingredient. All food that had already been prepared for distribution is being opened and quality-checked.

In addition to pulling out all items made with peanut butter and ground processed peanuts as an ingredient, ACCESS is sending out recall notices to its clients and 19 food pantries, said Yates.

"Our staff and volunteers are checking all food items, both from the Oregon Food Bank and from local food drives and grocers," Yates said.

There have been 488 cases reported across 43 states since Jan. 8. Six people have died, including one in Idaho. Nine people have fallen ill in Oregon, the AP reports.

Jackson County has no known reported cases of salmonella poisoning stemming from the infected products. But one person has reported that he or she might have come in contact with tainted foods, said Gary Stevens, program manager for Jackson County Environmental Health.

"I'm sure we've had people who have consumed some of the recalled product. But that doesn't mean they were infected with the salmonella bacteria," said Stevens.

People who believe they may have salmonella poisoning should contact their doctors, he said.

Common symptoms of the bacteria are fever, diarrhea and cramping. But absent a stool sample to confirm the bacteria, there is no way of knowing if the illness was caused by salmonella, or a more common norovirus, said Stevens.

The norovirus, (previously called "Norwalk-like viruses") is the most common cause of gastroenteritis. And it is currently running rampant in the county, he said.

Peanut butter and other food products containing ground-processed peanuts provide a high-protein and nutritious food source for families and individuals experiencing hunger. With the loss of the recalled items, the organization is seeking the public's help to provide new jars of peanut butter to Jackson County clients, Yates said.

Donations can be dropped off at ACCESS, Inc., located at 3630 Aviation Way (behind Costco) in Medford, or at any of the 19 food pantries throughout Jackson County. To find a local food pantry, call 779-6691.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail

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