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Returned jars of Peter Pan peanut butter  at a supermarket Friday in Atlanta. The peanut butter was recalled because of a possible link to a salmonella outbreak.
AP photo by John Bazemore
Returned jars of Peter Pan peanut butter at a supermarket Friday in Atlanta. The peanut butter was recalled because of a possible link to a salmonella outbreak.

Checked your peanut butter yet? 9 sickened in Alabama
Salmonella outbreak linked
to jars with 2111 printed on lid

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com 340-2468

Have you checked your pantry or refrigerator for recalled peanut butter?

If not, maybe you should.

I did, and found that my jar of Wal-Mart Great Value peanut butter bore the telltale "2111" at the start of the code. That number revealed that my peanut butter was processed at a plant in Georgia possibly linked to a foodborne illness.

My family has eaten the peanut butter and no one has gotten sick, but I'll throw the jar away, just as the government is advising.

The plant's owner, ConAgra Foods Inc., has stopped production and is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate an outbreak of salmonella sickness.

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. In some people with poor health or weak immune systems, salmonella can cause life-threatening infections. About 600 people a year die from it in the U.S.

The recall issued Wednesday by the FDA affects Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter with the 2111 number on the lid.

Nine cases of salmonella poisoning in Alabama are linked to the peanut butter, according to AP.

"Based on the fact that these cultures have the same fingerprinting, we presume that our nine also got it from peanut butter," state epidemiologist Dr. J.P. Lofgren said Friday.

Spokesmen for ConAgra said that none of their tests showed the presence of salmonella, but the company issued the voluntary recall as a precaution. A statistical report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday showed the possible link between the brands and about 300 cases of foodborne illness in 39 states.

A spokeswoman for ConAgra, Melissa Baron, said Friday that the company has heard from a lot of consumers and is trying to allay fears.

So are some companies that use peanut butter, including the makers of Girl Scout cookies. Local troops are delivering the popular cookies this week.

Rick Duran, a Little Brownie Bakers' customer service representative in El Paso, Texas, said Friday that the baker has not used peanut butter from the shut-down processor. He said customers are calling to ask.

"All of our cookies are safe to eat," he said.

Girl Scouts' Tagalongs and Do-Si-Dos have peanut butter as a major ingredient.

Refunds

For refunds, those who bought Peter Pan or Great Value peanut butter with the 2111 code may mail the lid, along with their name and address, to ConAgra Foods, P.O. Box 3768, Omaha, NE 68103.

Or customers may opt to return the jars to stores where they were purchased for refunds, Baron said.

About 15 people had done that by Friday afternoon at Champion Food Valu in Decatur, said Jerry Robertson, a manager. He said the store removed the recalled peanut butter but customers are "very concerned."

Robertson said it seems shoppers are staying away from peanut butter entirely.

Baron said she did not know how many jars of the possibly tainted peanut butter have gone into Alabama stores. She said that all clients supplied by the Sylvester, Ga., plant have been contacted. She wasn't sure if users included any restaurants, school cafeterias, candy makers or bakeries.

Baron said that she, too, had a jar of peanut butter at home with the 2111 code. She said her family had eaten most of the contents and had no sickness.

Lofgren said that that bacteria doesn't usually grow in peanut butter. He said that those who ate peanut butter months ago shouldn't worry because illness caused by salmonella would have set in within 72 hours.

ConAgra has a toll free direct hot line, (866) 344-6970. Additional information and an online response form are at www.conagrafoods.com.

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