Peanut scare hits Cayman

Over 600 pounds of contaminated peanut products have been pulled from shelves across Cayman as part of an ongoing salmonella outbreak.

The Department of Environmental Health on Wednesday continued to plead for the public to be vigilant as the number of products containing contaminated peanut butter or peanut paste was increased to over 400.

More than 70 manufacturers that used contaminated ingredients from a peanut plant in Georgia, USA, have become caught up in the outbreak with affected products including cookies, crackers, cereal, candy, pet food and ice cream.

Major brands of peanut butter have not been affected by the scare, which has been linked to at least eight deaths and more than 500 cases of sickness in North America.

The DEH said more than 600 pounds of products have been taken off shelves in Cayman in the past fortnight, including crackers, chocolate bars, and peanut butter (see sidebar).

The US FDA has set up a searchable database of products affected by the recall and the DEH in Cayman is encouraging consumers to check on it before consuming any products that contain peanut ingredients.

The DEH warned it is likely that the number of products affected will continue to rise and asked the public to monitor the FDA’s website for updates.

FDA investigators on Wednesday said the company at the centre of the salmonella outbreak, Peanut Corp. of America, had found salmonella in a dozen internal tests of its products during the past two years but did nothing.

A report posted on the FDA’s website said roaches, mould, and signs of a leaking roof were among numerous problems investigators had found at PCA’s Georgia peanut plant in recent weeks.

Senior congressional and state officials are now calling for a federal probe of possible criminal violations by the company.

The company’s actions ‘can only be described as reprehensible and criminal,’ said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who oversees FDA funding. ‘Not only did this company knowingly sell tainted products, it shopped for a laboratory that would provide the acceptable results they were seeking. This behaviour represents the worst of our current food safety regulatory system.’

In Georgia, the state’s top agriculture official joined DeLauro in asking the Justice Department to determine if the case warrants criminal prosecution.

‘They tried to hide it so they could sell it,’ said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin. ‘Now they’ve caused a mammoth problem that could destroy their company – and it could destroy the peanut industry.’

There was no immediate response from PCA. The company has previously said it fully cooperated with the salmonella investigation.

Pulled products:

Condemned products the DEH has pulled from shelves in Cayman as of Wednesday include:

  • Austin Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter;
  • Austin Cheese Crackers with Peanut Butter;
  • Austin Cheese & Toasted Crackerswith Peanut Butter;
  • Austin Peanut Butter Crackers;
  • All Clif Mojo bars;
  • Archers Farm Soft baked cookies;
  • Clif Bar Choc chip Peanut Crunch;
  • Clif Bar Choc chip Peanut Butter;
  • Clif Bar Crunchy Peanut Bar;
  • Keebler Cheese Crackers with Peanut Butter;
  • Keebler Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwich crackers;
  • Luna Nutz Over Choc;
  • Little Debbie Peanut Butter Toasty Crackers;
  • Little Debbie Cheese Sandwich Crackers;
  • Organic Peanut Crunch Granola Bars;
  • ZonePerfect Chocolate Peanut Butter;
  • Zone Bar Choc Peanut Butter.