ROANOKE, Va.-- A peanut butter maker that sells bulk supplies to institutions issued a nationwide recall as officials on Wednesday reported two more deaths associated with a salmonella outbreak. Its client Kellogg Co. later asked stores to stop selling a variety of peanut butter crackers.
Lynchburg-based Peanut Corp. of America issued the recall late Tuesday for 21 lots of peanut butter made since July 1 at its plant in Blakely, Ga., because of possible salmonella contamination. The company supplies peanut paste to Kellogg, which on Wednesday asked stores nationwide to pull peanut butter crackers sold under the Austin and Keebler brands.
"We are taking these voluntary actions out of an abundance of caution," Kellogg CEO David Mackay said in a release.
The national salmonella outbreak has sickened more than 430 people in 43 states. Health officials in Minnesota and Idaho reported Wednesday that one death in each state had been linked to the outbreak. Another death in Minnesota and two in Virginia were confirmed Tuesday.
All five were adults who had salmonella when they died, though their causes of death haven't been determined. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the salmonella outbreak may have contributed.
Peanut Corp. of America said none of the peanut butter being recalled is sold through retail stores. Its peanut butter is made for distribution to institutions, food service industries and private label food companies. The company said the peanut butter is sold under the brand name Parnell's Pride and by the King Nut Co. as King Nut.
However, the products being pulled from shelves by Kellogg are sold directly to consumers. They include Austin and Keebler toasted peanut butter sandwich crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwich crackers, cheese and peanut butter sandwich crackers, and peanut butter-chocolate sandwich crackers. Customers and stores are asked to hold onto the Kellogg products, but not eat them, until an investigation is complete.
FDA compliance officer Sandra Williams said Kellogg's move is known as a stop-sale order and isn't as serious as a recall. Neither Williams nor a Kellogg spokesman could say how many units were involved, but Williams said, "It's a very large volume."
Kellogg spokesman Darryl Riley said federal investigators visited company facilities this week.
The Peanut Corp. recall was issued after an open container of King Nut peanut butter in a long-term care facility in Minnesota was found to contain a strain of salmonella. Health officials had recommended nursing homes, hospitals, schools, universities and restaurants discard containers of peanut butter linked to the outbreak. The peanut butter was in containers between 5 and 50 pounds.
"We deeply regret that this has happened," Stewart Parnell, owner and president of Peanut Corp. of America, said in a news release. "Out of an abundance of caution, we are voluntarily withdrawing this produce and contacting our customers."
Customers were notified by phone and in writing, the company said.
Kellogg said it gets peanut paste from several suppliers.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture so far has found nothing in samples tested from Peanut Corp.'s Blakely plant, spokesman Arty Schronce said Wednesday, but added the testing process can take several days.
Authorities have declined to identify the five people who died. But Virginia Health Department spokesman Phil Giaramita said Wednesday the cases there involved an adult over 65 in southwestern Virginia and a younger adult in the northwestern part of the state.
Health officials said a man in his 70s who had numerous underlying health conditions was the second person to die in Minnesota, where 13 people have been hospitalized. The Idaho death occurred in the fall.
The CDC said it appears most people became ill between Sept. 3 and Dec. 31 but mainly after Oct. 1.
King Nut recalled the peanut butter over the weekend in the seven states where it distributed it. King Nut president Martin Kanan had said he didn't want to wait for Peanut Corp. to act. He did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment on the wider recall.
Georgia agriculture officials have one to three inspectors at the Blakely plant and more people working on the case at the department's Atlanta headquarters, Schronce said. He said peanut butter plants in the state are inspected once or twice a year and more frequently if problems are found.