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Podcast: Peanut Butter and Salmonella

close up of peanut butter
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
NC State Audio Abstract
Audio Abstract
Podcast: Peanut Butter and Salmonella

You may have heard about the recent peanut butter recall issued by the CDC in response to an outbreak of Salmonella. And this is not the first time that delicious snack has suffered a recall. Ellen Shumaker, an extension associate and the director of outreach for Safe Plates at NC State, joined Audio Abstract to answer the question: What’s up with our peanut butter?

2007 served as a wake-up call for the peanut butter industry, according to Shumaker.

“There were two back-to-back (Salmonella) outbreaks that occurred really close together,” Shumaker says. “There was one in 2007 with Peter Pan, and then followed pretty closely afterwards in 2009 with PCA products. Before that, there really wasn’t very much focus related to risk reduction.”

Contamination can happen at any point in the production process, from the farm to the manufacturing facility.

“Salmonella is the main pathogen we’re concerned about here, and that’s for a few reasons,” Shumaker says. “Because it can be in the field or the processing environment, you’re really having to watch that whole farm to fork continuum. And it has the ability to survive in very low moisture environments, like peanut butter. And because peanut butter in itself is a fatty food, that acts as a protective agent for the Salmonella.”

Just a few Salmonella cells in a jar of peanut butter are enough to cause illness, Shumaker says. And recalls like this don’t just affect jars of peanut butter, but other peanut-butter containing foods as well.

So how can consumers protect themselves?

Shumaker recommends signing up for recall alerts through the USDA and other consumer agencies, and keeping an eye on the news.