On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that several nut butters are being recalled over concerns that they may be contaminated with salmonella. Four people have fallen ill after eating the products.
The nut butters impacted by the recall are sold under the brand names Arrowhead Mills and MaraNatha. There are also several private label butters sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and Safeway being pulled from the shelves.
The company that’s voluntarily recalled their products, New York-based nSpired Natural Foods Inc., was alerted to the potential salmonella risk thanks to routine testing conducted by the FDA. “nSpired Natural Foods, Inc. is committed to producing the highest quality products and our top priority is the safety of our consumers,” the manufacturer said in a statement, noting that the recall is a “precautionary measure.”
Salmonella can lead to diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Although symptoms typically just last a few days, in some cases, untreated salmonella can cause infections in the bloodstream. It’s riskier in children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems.
About 48 million Americans fall ill after eating contaminated food every year, and about 128,000 of them get sick enough to land in the hospital. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), salmonella is the most common type of foodborne bacteria that’s making people sick — but we haven’t made much progress in lowering its rates of infection over the past several years. Between 2006 and 2012, the overall incidence of salmonella remained unchanged.
In fact, peanut butter products caused a record-breaking salmonella outbreak in 2009 that’s currently the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. The 2009 outbreak sickened more than 700 people in 46 states, and prompted the largest recall in our nation’s history. The Peanut Corporation of America, which has since gone bankrupt, is being accused of knowingly shipping salmonella-tainted products across the country. It’s the first case attempting to bring criminal charges against a food corporation for endangering lives in this way.
Since then, the federal government has attempted to make some improvements in this area. The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 represents the first major food safety overhaul in over 70 years. And at the end of last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a Salmonella Action Plan to modernize the way that poultry is slaughtered and inspected.