In recent years, salmonella in peanut and almond butter has captured many headlines. In 2008 and 2009, an outbreak of the bacteria swept across the U.S., sickening 714 people and killing nine, including several children. By the time the outbreak was contained it had spread to 46 states, and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials believe the actual number of affected people was in the thousands. The quick spread and severity of the outbreak forced officials to enact the largest food recall in history. What’s truly frightening about the 2008 and 2009 scare, though, is that the outbreak was traced back to just three processing facilities. In short, it only takes a single company not following safety protocols to sicken an entire country.
It appears that the U.S. may be on the verge of another outbreak of salmonella in peanut and almond butter. According to the CDC, four people have been diagnosed with the bacteria as of August 20, 2014. What is especially alarming is that the four people in each case live in a different state, suggesting that contaminated food has already spread throughout the country. Of these four cases, one was reported in Connecticut, one in Iowa, one in Tennessee and one in Texas. Only one of the four has required hospitalization, but officials believe that many more cases will likely emerge soon.
CDC officials have begun their investigation in earnest, teaming up with federal, state and local authorities to locate the source of the bacteria. Officials believe that the contaminated products are being sold under the Arrowhead Mills, MaraNatha, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Safeway and Kroger brands. The supplier is nSpired Natural Foods, Inc., which is a major concern to investigators. According to the CDC, an nSpired processing facility tested positive for the bacteria during an investigation in July. Though the company is now cooperating with investigators, this likely means that the company was aware of a high risk of salmonella contamination in its peanut and almond butter products.
Following the 2008 and 2009 outbreak, hundreds of injury claims were filed against the responsible company, Peanut Corporation of America. This situation will likely repeat itself if investigators confirm that nSpired is the source of the 2014 outbreak.