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Company recalls peanut butter nationwide

This undated photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Health shows a container of King Nut peanut butter. Lab tests found salmonella in the open 5-pound container of peanut butter from a Minnesota nursing home. The state Public Health Laboratory completed testing Jan. 12, 2009, that showed a genetic match with the bacterial strain tied to 30 illnesses in Minnesota and others across the country. (AP Photo/Minnesota Department of Health)
This undated photo provided by the Minnesota Department of Health shows a container of King Nut peanut butter. Lab tests found salmonella in the open 5-pound container of peanut butter from a Minnesota nursing home. The state Public Health Laboratory completed testing Jan. 12, 2009, that showed a genetic match with the bacterial strain tied to 30 illnesses in Minnesota and others across the country. (AP Photo/Minnesota Department of Health)
Associated Press

ROANOKE, Va. — A peanut butter maker that sells bulk supplies to institutions issued a nationwide recall of peanut butter from one its plants as officials on Wednesday reported two more deaths associated with a salmonella outbreak.

Lynchburg-based Peanut Corp. of America company issued the recall late Tuesday for 21 lots of peanut butter made at its plant in Blakely, Ga., on or after July 1 because of possible contamination with salmonella.

The national salmonella outbreak has sickened more than 400 people in 43 states. Health officials in Minnesota and Idaho reported Wednesday that one death in each state had been linked to the outbreak. One 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 Centers for Disease Control 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 bulk 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.

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 of five to 50 pounds.

The 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.

“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.

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 identity the five people who died. But state Health Department spokesman Phil Giaramita said Wednesday the two Virginia cases involved an adult over the age of 65 in southwestern Virginia and a younger adult in the northwestern part of the state. He said 18 cases of salmonella have been reported in 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 has said the illnesses started between Sept. 3 and Jan. 6, but people became sick 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.

Besides the Georgia plant, Peanut Corp. of America has plants in Suffolk, Va., and Plainview, Texas.

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.

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