Peanut Butter And Food Poisoning  

The CDC reports that every year, roughly 40,000 Americans are afflicted by food poisoning originating from peanut butter. It is believed that the figure could be significantly larger as several cases go unreported.

A very recent outbreak in January 2009 reports over 500 infected people spread over 43 states. The cause has been pinpointed not to peanut butter in jars rather to crackers, ice cream, cookies and other processed foods made with peanut butter. The outbreak has initiated federal investigation, huge recalls, general alarm and a spate of legal actions. The FDA has issued warnings about consumption of certain brands of food in which peanut butter is an active ingredient.

Peanut butter however is not generally associated with food poisoning on the belief that the bacteria are killed during the roasting process. The result of such bacterial poisoning is abdominal cramps, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is generally easily treatable and rarely requiring hospitalization. But in the case of the very young and very old and those with poor immunity systems the disease could prove fatal. In the current outbreak, one death each has been reported in Minnesota, Idaho and Georgia.

Peanut butter when tainted becomes infected with Salmonella, a form of bacteria that attacks the digestive tract. Salmonella is a bacterium usually associated with animal protein but is found in almost any food. Typically the symptoms, vomiting and diarrhoea possibly accompanied by fever, headache and nausea first appear between 6 and 48 hours after exposure. The salmonella bacteria is the cause of only about 10 percent of incidents of food poisoning, but account for around 30 percent of fatalities from foodborne disease.

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