Timeline of events in salmonella outbreak

A timeline of important events in the salmonella outbreak linked to tainted peanuts at a Blakely, Ga., plant.

-2006 - Four inspections by the Georgia Department of Agriculture cite numerous, repeated violations at the Blakely, Ga., plant of the Peanut Corp. of America, a peanut processing company and maker of peanut butter for bulk distribution to institutions, food service industries, and private label food companies. The violations include food residue buildup, storage on floors and the improper use of duct tape.

-Aug. 2007 - Three samples taken at PCA by the Georgia Department of Agriculture test negative for salmonella and pesticides.

-2008 - Seven tests performed for the company are positive for salmonella. In each case, after a retest is negative, the product is shipped.

-Sept. 8, 2008 - The first reported illnesses begin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

-Nov. 25, 2008 - The CDC, working with state and local partners, begins an epidemiological assessment of a cluster of salmonella cases reported from 12 different states.

-Dec. 21, 2008 - Shirley Mae Almer, 72, dies in a nursing home in Brainerd, Minn. On. Jan. 26, 2009, her relatives file suit against the operators of PCA and distributor King Nut Cos. saying their negligence caused her death. The complaint says her death was a direct result of eating peanut butter infected by a salmonella strain linked to the nationwide outbreak.

-Jan. 8, 2009 - The Food and Drug Administration visits an Ohio distributor for Peanut Corp. of America.

-Jan. 9, 2009 - The FDA and the Georgia Department of Agriculture initiate an environmental investigation at the PCA plant.

-- PCA voluntarily stops production of peanut butter and peanut paste at the Blakely, Ga., plant.

-Jan. 10, 2009 - King Nut announces a recall of peanut butter manufactured by PCA and distributed under the King Nut label.

-- The Minnesota Departments of Agriculture and Health confirm that laboratory analyses show a genetic match between the strains of salmonella bacteria found in a container of King Nut brand creamy peanut butter and the strains of bacteria associated with 30 illnesses in Minnesota and nearly 400 illnesses around the country.

-Jan. 13, 2009 - PCA announces a voluntary recall of peanut butter produced in its Blakely, Ga., processing plant on or after July 1, 2008, because of possible salmonella contamination.

-Jan. 16, 2009 - Food inspectors confirm the presence of salmonella bacteria in an unopened five-pound tub of peanut butter found at a Connecticut food distributor.

-- PCA announces an expanded recall of peanut butter produced on or after Aug. 8, 2008, in its Blakely, Ga., processing plant as well as the voluntary recall of peanut paste produced in the same plant on or after Sept. 26, 2008, because of possible salmonella contamination.

-Jan. 18, 2009 - PCA expands the recall of peanut butter and voluntarily recalls peanut paste made at its Blakely, Ga., plant on or after July 1, 2008.

-Jan. 27, 2009 - The FDA finishes its investigation of the PCA plant and reports on its inspection. A list of problems observed by FDA investigators during their inspection is available at this link: http://www.fda.gov/ora/frequent/default.htm

-- Federal officials say PCA failed to tell inspectors that after samples sent to a contract lab for testing in 2007 and 2008 tested positive for salmonella, the company got a second opinion from another lab and sold the food after the secondary tests came back negative.

-Jan. 28, 2009 - PCA voluntarily recalls all peanuts and peanut products processed in its Blakely, Ga., plant since Jan. 1, 2007. The expanded recall includes all dry- and oil-roasted peanuts, granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter and peanut paste. The company stops producing all peanut products at the Blakely plant.

-- As of 9 p.m. EDT, 529 persons infected with salmonella typhimurium are reported from 43 states, according to the CDC. Additionally, one ill person is reported from Canada.

-- At least 431 peanut butter-containing products are recalled by 54 companies using ingredients produced by the PCA facility after July 1, 2008.

-Jan. 29, 2009 - A combination of epidemiological analysis and laboratory testing by state officials in Minnesota and Connecticut, the FDA, and the CDC enable the FDA to confirm that the sources of the salmonella outbreak are peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the PCA at its Blakely, Ga., processing plant.

-- The Ohio Department of Health says two containers of peanut butter taken from a central Ohio nursing home have tested positive for salmonella.

-Jan. 30, 2009 - Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA's food safety center, says the Justice Department will investigate possible criminal violations by the PCA processing plant, assisted by FDA investigators.

-Feb. 2, 2009 - President Barack Obama promises a comprehensive review of the FDA.

-- The salmonella outbreak prompts voluntary recalls by makers of more than 800 products. The recalls reach into Canada and Europe.

-- According to the CDC, 550 cases in 43 states are tallied, with the most recent reported illness beginning on Jan. 17, 2009.

-Feb. 3, 2009 - The Associated Press learns that a peanut processing plant in Plainview, Texas, run by the PCA has operated for years uninspected and unlicensed by government health officials.

-Feb. 5, 2009 - The U.S. Agriculture Department suspends PCA from participating in government contract programs for at least a year. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack removes Stewart Parnell, PCA president, from the USDA's Peanut Standards Board.

-- Federal officials say that nearly 168,000 emergency meal kits sent to Kentucky after an ice storm were recalled more than two weeks earlier.

-- According to the CDC, 575 cases are counted in 43 states with the most recent reported illness beginning on Jan. 22, 2009.

-Feb. 6, 2009 - The Agriculture Department says that it shipped possibly contaminated peanut butter and other foods to free school-lunch programs in California, Minnesota and Idaho in 2007 under a contract with PCA.

-- Corpus Christi Catholic School in Colorado Springs, Colo., closes early after a student is diagnosed with salmonella poisoning.

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Sources: FDA, CDC, Associated Press articles

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Edited by AP Researcher Julie Reed

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On the Net:

FDA's main peanut butter product recalls page: http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html

FDA's list of peanut butter product recalls: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/peanutbutterrecall/index.cfm

CDC Investigation Update: Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium Infections, 2008-2009: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/typhimurium/

CDC: About Salmonella: http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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