MINNEAPOLIS – At least 23 people in 14 states have been sickened by the same strain of salmonella found in two breakfast cereals recalled by Malt-O-Meal, the federal Food and Drug Administration said Saturday.
Officials in Minnesota are investigating whether a case in that state might be linked to the cereals produced by the Minneapolis-based company, the state health department said.
Malt-O-Meal voluntarily recalled its unsweetened Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat cereals April 5 after finding salmonella contamination during routine testing. The affected bags were produced in the past 12 months in Northfield.
"The Malt-O-Meal company has been extremely cooperative in this investigation and has done the right thing to protect the public's health," Heidi Kassenborg, director of the dairy and food inspection division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said in a statement.
Three people have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms of salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps. It can be life-threatening for people with poor health or weakened immune systems, including young children and the elderly.
The FDA said people who experience such symptoms after eating a puffed wheat or puffed rice cereal made by Malt-O-Meal should contact their doctors and report the illness to state or local health authorities.
The FDA said the recalled products were distributed nationally under the Malt-O-Meal brand name, as well as private labels including Acme, America's Choice, Food Club, Giant, Hannaford, Jewel, Laura Lynn, Pathmark, Shaw's, ShopRite, Tops and Weis Quality. The cereal bags have "best if used by" dates from April 8, 2008 (coded as APR0808), through March 18, 2009 (coded as MAR1809).
Consumers with products from the recalled lots are advised to throw them out, and retailers have been told to remove the cereals from their shelves.
The CDC said that as of Friday it had received reports of 21 people ill with the same salmonella strain in 13 states. California reported 1; Colorado, 1; Delaware, 1; Maine, 3; Massachusetts, 2; Minnesota, 1; North Dakota, 1; New Hampshire, 2; New Jersey, 3; New York, 3; Pennsylvania, 1; Rhode Island, 1; and Vermont, 1.
It wasn't clear Saturday what the 14th state was or whether the two additional cases were from there.