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Peanut butter plant tests positive for salmonella; recall widens

Salmonella contamination has been detected at a New Mexico plant that supplied nut butters to Trader Joe’s and other major retailers, including products now linked to a food poisoning outbreak that has sickened 35 people in 19 states.

Food and Drug Administration officials confirmed Friday that they found salmonella on various surfaces in the Sunland Inc. production facility in Portales, N.M. They had not yet isolated the specific strain.

However, agriculture officials in Washington state isolated the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bredeney from an opened jar of Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter collected from an infected patient, officials said. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said another outbreak of salmonella, this one from dirty cantaloupes, was over.

Sunland has expanded its original recall to include all nut butter products made at the plant between March 1, 2010 and Sept. 24, 2012. The expanded recall now includes 240 products and covers all previously identified peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter and tahini products as well as roasted blanched peanuts. New categories added to the list include several varieties of flavored butters and spreads. Of the added recalled products, about 50 have best-by dates that have not expired, while another 90 have best-by dates that have expired, but may still be in consumers' homes.

The Sunland recall has sparked a cascade of additional recalls from retailers including Whole Foods, Harry & David and others. For a complete list of recalled products, click here.

Consumers should not eat recalled peanut butter or other recalled products that contain nuts and seeds produced by Sunland, the CDC warned. That’s especially important for children, the elderly and those with weak immune systems.

Two-thirds of the victims sickened by the peanut butter products are children; the median age of victims is 7. Eight people have been hospitalized; no deaths have been reported.

Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include fever, abdominal cramping and diarrhea 12 to 72 hours after infection. Most people recover without treatment, but the infection can turn serious in some, requiring hospitalization.

Later on Friday the CDC said an outbreak of salmonella in cantaloupes was over. In all, 261 people were infected and three died. Ninety-four were hospitalized. "Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicated that cantaloupe originating from Chamberlain Farms Produce, Inc. of Owensville, Indiana, was the source of this outbreak," CDC said in a statement.

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