Stores pull peanut butter

Published 10:24 am Thursday, January 22, 2009

Austin grocers reacted swiftly to a salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter by voluntarily pulling product from their store shelves.

“We pulled it right away as soon as we found out,” said James Baldus, owner of Jim’s Super Valu. “It will stay off our shelves until they give us an ‘all clear.’”

Todd Hepler, general manager of Hy-Vee Store of Austin, said he followed an alert posed by the Hy-Vee grocery chain to all their stores.

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“We pulled a few items right away when we were alerted,” Hepler said. “The Hy-Vee Food Store chain has a good system in place to alert all the stores whenever there is a recall.”

Hepler went a step further and distributed customer alerts at the Austin store’s customer service counter.

The tainted peanut butter outbreak is widening steadily.

The Food and Drug Administration told the Associated Press Wednesday more than 125 products have been recalled in a salmonella-and-peanuts investigation that keeps getting bigger every day.

The list ranges from cookies, cakes and ice cream to jars of peanut butter and dog biscuits, according to the FDA.

There have been no illnesses reported in Mower County that have been linked to the tainted products.

Also Wednesday, General Mills, Kroger Co. and Safeway Inc. joined the list of food companies and retailers pulling products.

The FDA has traced the outbreak to a Georgia plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America.

The outbreak may have contributed to the deaths of six people and sickened more than 485 others in 43 states, including Minnesota.

And that has food companies and stores worried and taking precautions to reassure consumers.

“The peanut butters you find in a jar, like Great Value and Sam’s Choice peanut butters as well as national-brand peanut butters remain unaffected, as they are not produced by Peanut Corporation of America,” said Wal-Mart Corporation’s Anna Taylor, manager media relations for the company’s corporate communications. “A number of national-brand products, which contain peanut butter or peanut paste from PCA as an ingredient have been recalled including certain cookies, crackers and ice cream.”

“As a precautionary measure Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products, Inc. has voluntarily recalled in 34 states Wal-Mart Bakery brands of Peanut Butter Cookies, Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies, and Peanut Butter Fudge No-Bake Cookies,” Taylor said.  “If we learn of any additional products affected by the recall, we will promptly remove them from our shelves.”

Convenience stores are also affected and taking action.

Again, their target is the Peanut Corporation of America.

“We are working hard to keep up with all the news on the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and the recall of all products associated with this company,” said Marty Putz, food safety and quality assurance spokesman for Kwik Trip, Inc.

Putz pointed to a Kwik Trip Inc. advisory to its 450 stores in three states that emphasized, “The products we carry in our food supply chain are not listed on (an early FDA advisory) recall, but the recall continues to grow as the investigation continues.”

“We will keep everyone informed as we continue to track this Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak,” Putz advised.

The company has posted noticed to customers in all its stores advising everyone of the precautions Kwik Trip Inc. is taking.

The peanut butter – salmonella scare even reached President Barack Obama on his first day in office.

Consumers Union, publishers of Consumer’s Report magazine, called on President Obama to appoint a new FDA commissioner as soon as possible to address the peanut butter contamination concerns.

“FDA must inspect food production facilities more frequently than once every 10 years on average; especially when a problem is identified in an industry ,” stated Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.