Two Baltimore children are among eight Marylanders reportedly sickened by salmonella contamination that federal authorities have traced to peanut butter products from a plant in Georgia.
Baltimore's health commissioner, Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, confirmed that the children, ages 1 and 9, were among three Baltimore residents sickened late last year. The third was a 20-year-old. All have recovered.
The eight Maryland cases identified so far are among 475 salmonella infections in 43 states linked by DNA analysis to the outbreak that began last fall. About one patient in five was hospitalized, and the illness may have contributed to six deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Bacterial DNA from the eight Maryland victims has been matched to the Salmonella typhimurium bacteria found in products from Peanut Corp. of America's King Nut plant in Blakely, Ga., according to John Hammond, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Salmonella infections cause nausea and vomiting, leading to stomach pain and diarrhea, fever, chills and muscle pains lasting a few days to two weeks.
Citing patient confidentiality concerns, given the small number of cases, Hammond declined to provide further detail about the Maryland victims, except to say the cases came from "across the state." At least two people were hospitalized and discharged, and all had recovered, he said.
Alvina Chu, chief of the state Health Department's division of outbreak investigations, said the eight people fell ill between mid-October and mid-November. Their cases were found among a "normal" number of salmonella cases last fall, emerging from the rest only after analysts found the DNA match to the national outbreak.
"The majority of the cases we've spoken to seem to have a peanut butter cracker exposure connection," said Kirsten Larson, the DHMH FoodNet coordinator. Investigators continue to look for additional cases.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration traced the outbreak to peanut butter and peanut paste produced at the Blakely plant. The bulk products are sold to institutions and manufacturers in 24 states, including Maryland, and used as ingredients in such food products as peanut butter crackers and ice cream. Jarred peanut butter sold directly to consumers is not affected.
Among the many recalled products are Food Lion Bake Shop peanut butter cookies; Little Debbie Peanut Butter Toasty sandwich crackers; and Wegman's Peanut Butter Ice Cream, manufactured by Perry's Ice Cream of Buffalo.
The FDA has posted a growing online recall list of products containing the suspect King Nut peanut products. The FDA recommends that consumers discard any of those products they may have purchased.
If consumers can't find their items on the recall list, they should call the toll-free number on the package or visit the manufacturer's Web site, the FDA said. If you can't determine whether a product is safe, the FDA recommends that it not be eaten.
For the recall list, go to www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonel latyph.html#recalls