Outbreak Investigation of Salmonella Senftenberg linked to Jif peanut butter- Why outbreaks from peanut butter?

 The outbreak

The FDA, CDC, and state and local partners are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Senftenberg linked to Jif peanut butter products produced at the J.M. Smucker Company factory in Lexington, Kentucky.  J.M. Smucker recalled the affected products from the market on May 20, 2022.

The outbreak caused 16 illnesses and two hospitalizations in 12 States (AR (1), GA (2), IL (1), MA (1), MO (2), OH (1), NC (2), NY (1), SC (1), TX (2), VA (1), and WA (1)). The number of ill people has not changed significantly from the beginning of the outbreak. According to the CDC, the actual number of ill people might be much higher because many people recover without medical help.


Initially, Jif peanut butter removed 49 SKUs from the market. They sold peanut butter nationwide in a variety of stores.


The Cascading effect

In the week following the recall, Jif recalls expanded and included 69 other products. A cascade effect followed as many companies use Jif peanut butter in their products. Companies use peanut butter in their chocolate products, sandwiches, snack packages, fruit and vegetable tray, and individually wrapped Jif cups with other products, to name a few.


Every day since the initial recall, FDA reported recalls of products related to the Jif recall. Several convenient stores, supermarkets, and food manufacturers recalled products containing the recalled Jif peanut butter.


The most notable recalls related to this recall are:

A G Specialty Foods:  Snack Pack, We Be PB & Jammin’ Snack Box, Peanut Butter Strawberry Jam Old Fashioned White Bread, and Peanut Butter Strawberry Jam White Bread containing the Jif Creamy Peanut Butter, Jif Creamy Peanut Butter To Go.

Albertson Companies: Store-prepared items sold at ACME, Albertsons, Albertsons Market, Amigos, Andronico’s Community Markets, Balducci’s, Carrs-Safeway, Haggen, Eagle, Jewel-Osco, King’s, Lucky, Market Street, Pak’ N Save, Randalls, Safeway, Shaw’s, Star Market, Tom Thumb, United, and Vons. Including snack packs, trail mix, and baked goods. Albertsons, Safeway, Lucky, Haggen, Carrs-Safeway, Eagle, Tom Thumb, United, Amigos, Market Street, Albertsons Market, Andronico’s Community Markets, Vons, Pak’ N Save, Shaw’s, Star Market, Randalls, Vons, Jewel-Osco, ACME, King’s and Balducci’s.

Bix Produce Company: Egg and Cheese Curds Power Box; Jack&Olive Egg and Cheese Curds Power Box.

Cargill : Milk and Dark Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz® Crackers, Peanut Butter Meltaways, Peanut Butter Eggs and Fudge

 Coblentz Chocolate Company: Peanut Butter Spread, Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Graham Peanut Butter Sandwich, Ritz Peanut Butter Sandwich, Oversized Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Fudge Sampler, Peanut Butter Fudge, Buckeye Fudge, Oversized Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Oversized Peanut Butter Pretzel Cluster, Peanut Butter Truffle, Chocolate Peanut Butter Caramel Corn, Select Gift Boxes: 4 oz. Deluxe Assortment, 8 oz. Deluxe Assortment, 16 oz. Deluxe Assortment, 32 oz. Deluxe Assortment, 8 oz. Assorted Creams, 16 oz. Assorted Creams.

Country Fresh: Snack Fresh Apples and Peanut Butter; Snack Fresh Apple & Cheese Bites with Crackers; Snack Sensations Apple, Pretzel & Celery Bites with Peanut Butter.

 Euphoria Chocolate Company: Peanut Butter Classic Truffles, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Melt

a ways, and Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Meltaways.

Fudgeamentals:  fudge under the Fudgeamentals and Walmart brands. Fudge bars.

Garden Cut: Sweet Apple Wedges with Peanut Butter, Tart Apple Wedges with Peanut Butter.

Mary’s Harvest Fresh Foods: Celery Peanut Butter Cup G&G and Apple Peanut Butter Cup G&G containing the Jif Creamy Peanut Butter

Taher, Inc: Fresh Seasons Power Packs

Wawa: Apple & Peanut Butter Dipper.


The recall went internationally; Smucker reported that recalled products were also shipped to  

Canada, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Spain, Singapore, and the UK,


While the Jif peanut butter recall caused a significant ripple effect, it is not one of the most extensive outbreaks due to Salmonella in peanut butter. The current outbreak adds to a list of outbreaks of Salmonella in peanut butter.


Past outbreaks of Salmonella in peanut butter

In 2008-2009 a massive outbreak of Salmonella in peanut butter, linked to the now-defunct company Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), sickened 714 people and resulted in 9 deaths. The King Nut produced by PCA in its plant in Blakely, Georgia, was implicated. PCA sold the peanut butter to institutional settings and sold the peanut paste to many food companies for use as an ingredient. They wildly sold the implicated peanut products throughout the USA, 23 countries, and non-U.S. territories. As a result of selling contaminated products, the former corporate CEO has been sentenced to 28 years in prison. Two other executives face jail time as well. The jail terms are the harshest ever given in a food safety case. One of the deadliest and most widespread in U.S. history, the outbreak resulted in recalls of 3,913 different products made by 361 companies. 
In 2007 peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella Tennessee infected Peter Pan peanut butter products and Great Value peanut butter. 425 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Tennessee have been reported from 44 states. Among 351 patients for whom clinical information is available, 71 (20%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been attributed to this infection.


In 2012 a multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney was linked to Peanut Butter manufactured By Sunland. A total of 42 people were infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bredeney were reported from 20 states. 28% of ill persons were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported. 61% percent of ill persons were children under the age of 10. Trader Joe’s Valencia Peanut Butter, manufactured by Sunland, Inc. of Portales, New Mexico, was a likely source of this outbreak.


In 2014 Salmonella Braenderup Infections was linked to Nut Butter manufactured by nSpired Natural Foods. Almond and peanut butter manufactured by nSpired Natural Foods, Inc. was the source of this outbreak. A total of six ill persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Braenderup were reported from five states since January 1, 2014.


Why Salmonella in peanut butter?

Research published in J. Applied Microbiology showed that Salmonella can survive in peanut butter for many months. Peanut butter, being a fatty food, is more protective of Salmonella. Therefore, when Salmonella gets into the stomach’s acid, it may not get destroyed easily.  


Raw peanuts grow in the ground and, as a result, can be contaminated with Salmonella. However, the roasting step is done at a high temperature (<3000F) that should kill any Salmonella on the peanuts. Therefore, any contamination with Salmonella results from contamination in the processing plant after the roasting.


It is essential to keep the processing plant dry to minimize adding moisture and prevent the growth of Salmonella. Modernization of plant design is another key. Finally, environmental monitoring of Salmonella is essential to eliminate growth in the plant. 


The FDA conducted WGS on samples of sick people in this outbreak and found that the current strain of Salmonella infecting people, is closely related to a strain recovered from the environment in 2010 at J.M. Smucker Company’s facility in Lexington, Kentucky. This indicates that the organism might have been present in the environment for years. A better environmental monitoring program should have discovered the problem soon and perhaps eliminated the contamination.


We need to learn more from history to eliminate future outbreaks of Salmonella in peanut butter.

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