MILWAUKEE – General Mills Inc. and grocers Kroger Co., Safeway Inc. and Meijer Inc. have joined the growing list of food companies and retailers pulling items with peanut butter amid a salmonella outbreak that has killed at least six people and sickened more than 470 others in 43 states.
The Food and Drug Administration has traced the outbreak to a Georgia plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America, which manufactures peanut butter and peanut paste for distribution to institutions and food companies.
The government has advised consumers to avoid eating cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods containing peanut butter until health officials learn more about the contamination. Most peanut butter sold in jars at supermarkets appears to be safe, officials said.
The FDA has created a searchable list of recalled products and brands on the agency's Web site. Salmonella, a bacteria, is the most common cause of food poisoning in the U.S., causing diarrhea, cramping and fever.
On Sunday, Peanut Corp. expanded its own recall to all peanut butter and peanut paste produced since July 1 at its plant in Blakely, Ga. The recalled products were distributed to institutions, food service industries and private label food companies in 24 states.
"We deeply regret that this product recall has expanded, and our first priority is to protect the health of our customers," said Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corp.
Late Monday, Safeway said some of the products it makes, including Ready Pack Eating Right Kids Apples with Peanut Butter and Orchard Valley Harvest's Organic Bark Peanut Butter Cookies and Cream, may use peanut butter involved in the recall and asked customers to throw them out or return them to the store for a full refund.
Meijer, which operates 181 stores in Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Kentucky, said Monday it was voluntarily recalling two types of crackers -- Meijer brand Cheese and Peanut Butter, and Toasty Peanut Butter -- and two varieties of ice cream: Peanut Butter and Jelly, and Peanut Butter Cup.
The company said none of the Meijer brand products have been identified as contaminated nor linked to any illness. "Meijer has taken these precautionary steps to help protect our customers," said Stacie Behler, vice president of public affairs for Meijer.
Also Monday, Kroger, the nation's largest traditional grocery chain, recalled Private Selection Peanut Butter Passion Ice Cream sold in stores named City Market, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Scoopers, QFC and Smith's in 11 states, primarily in the West. The company said the ice cream was not sold in its namesake Kroger stores or any other retailers it operates.
Golden Valley, Minn.-based General Mills said Monday afternoon that it was recalling two flavors of snack bars: LARABAR Peanut Butter Cookie and JamFrakas Peanut Butter Blisscrisp. General Mills said the recall did not affect any other products it makes.
Clif Bar & Co.'s also Monday recalled some Clif branded bars -- including some under Luna and Clif Mojo labels -- sold in the U.S. and Canada that contain peanut butter made by Peanut Corp. Clif Bar makes all-natural and organic foods and drinks.
Kellogg Co. recalled 16 products last week, including Keebler Soft Batch Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies, Famous Amos Peanut Butter Cookies, and Keebler Cheese & Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers.
The company said Monday that federal authorities have confirmed that salmonella was found in a single package of its peanut butter crackers: Austin Quality Foods Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter, which has previously been recalled.
Kellogg Chief Executive David Mackay said the company would evaluate its processes "to ensure we take necessary actions to reassure consumers and rebuild confidence in these products."
Also on Monday, Abbott Nutrition recalled three products because of the possibility of salmonella contamination: ZonePerfect Chocolate Peanut Butter bars, ZonePerfect Peanut Toffee bars and NutriPals Peanut Butter Chocolate nutrition bars. The Columbus, Ohio-based company said the items were sold in the U.S., Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore.
Over the weekend, Little Debbie maker McKee Foods Corp. of Collegedale, Tenn., issued a voluntary recall of its peanut butter crackers because of possible contamination.
Other companies issuing recalls recently include Midwest supermarket chain Hy-Vee Inc. of West Des Moines, Iowa; Perry's Ice Cream Co. of Akron, N.Y.; and the South Bend Chocolate Co. in Indiana. Ralcorp Frozen Bakery Products, a division of St. Louis-based Ralcorp, recalled several brands of peanut butter cookies it sells through Wal-Mart stores.
Some companies were quick to assure their customers that their products were fine. Russell Stover Candies Inc., maker of Russell Stover and Whitman's, said Monday it does not use ingredients from Peanut Corp.
ConAgra Foods Inc., maker of Peter Pan peanut butter, said Saturday it was not involved in the investigation and neither the Omaha, Neb.-based company nor its suppliers use ingredients from Peanut Corp.
J.M. Smucker Co., the nation's top maker of jams and jellies, assured customers on Monday that none of its products are involved in the national recall.
Orrville, Ohio-based J.M. Smucker, whose brands include Jif, Eagle Brand, Pillsbury and Smucker's, said it does not buy peanuts or any ingredients from Peanut Corp.