A sign posted in the Weber City Food City explains the absence of Peter Pan peanut butter on Thursday. A salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter has prompted a recall of the product with code beginning "2111" printed on the lids. David Grace photo.
KINGSPORT - Three of the 288 confirmed cases of U.S. salmonella linked to peanut butter consumption occurred in Sullivan County, two health officials said Thursday.
As a precautionary measure and in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration, ConAgra Wednesday recalled all Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter with a product code beginning with "2111" printed on the lids.
Great Value is a Wal-Mart brand, but only the Great Value jars produced by ConAgra are being recalled.
"Three of those cases are confirmed cases from Sullivan County," Dr. Stephen May, regional medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department in Blountville, said Thursday. "They all ate peanut butter, but we don't know what kind."
The peanut butter in the recall was made in a single facility in Sylvester, Ga., although ConAgra officials have said testing there indicated no salmonella. Dr. Mike Lynch of the Centers for Disease Control has said how salmonella got into the peanut butter is still under investigation.
May said the three Sullivan cases - one in December and two in January - have the same serotype as the 288 cases in 39 states since August.
Delilah Long, district epidemiologist with the Lenowisco Health District, said no confirmed cases of peanut butter-linked salmonella have been reported in Lee, Wise and Scott counties or the city of Norton.
Dr. John Dreyzehner, director of the Cumberland Plateau Health District and interim director of the Lenowisco Health District, would say only that 17 confirmed cases believed linked to the peanut butter have been reported in Virginia.
Cumberland covers Russell, Tazewell, Buchanan and Dickenson counties.
Marlene Peters, nurse epidemiologist with the Mount Rogers Health District, reported no confirmed cases in the cities of Bristol and Galax, Va., or the counties of Washington, Smyth, Wythe, Bland, Carroll and Grayson.
Dr. Timothy Jones, deputy state epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health, said the state had "18 cases of salmonella that may be linked to the recalled peanut butter."
Aside from the three in Sullivan, he said the nearest confirmed cases were three in the Knoxville area, with none reported in the Northeast Regional Health Department based in Johnson City.
Haskel Bledsoe, district manager for area Food City stores, said all stores Thursday morning pulled the Peter Pan brand with the 2111 code from shelves.
"We do have - or did have - some on shelves that we pulled this morning," Bledsoe said.
Food City is offering full refunds for Peter Pan peanut butter jars with or without the 2111 code.
"We've had several customers who brought it back to the store. We gave them a refund," Bledsoe said. "There is a possibility for a salmonella contamination. They (ConAgra officials) are pulling it as a precaution."
For Bledsoe, the first shelf he checked when he heard the news Wednesday night was his own kitchen.
"I've got two daughters. We eat a lot," Bledsoe said. "We had one jar."
Wal-Mart in an afternoon e-mail statement said it had pulled the peanut butter in question from its shelves. Spokeswoman Marisa Bluestone said in an e-mail Wal-Mart and Sam's Wholesale Club stores would provide refunds without a receipt for customers who bring in lids with the 2111 code.
Corporate officials with Kroger, Food Lion and White's Fresh Foods could not be reached for comment. However, a local White's store employee said to throw out the jar and gave an address to mail the lids to ConAgra, P.O. Box 57078, Irvine, CA, 92619, while Food Lion and Kroger employees said to bring the jars back to the store for a refund.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reports that about 20 percent of the 288 have been hospitalized, but none died. About 85 percent of the infected people said they ate peanut butter.
May of the Sullivan health department said salmonella sometimes has no symptoms, but in most cases it causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea with abdominal cramps, and in some cases it causes muscle aches and headaches.
The incubation period is generally 24 to 72 hours from ingestion, with 36 hours the average, May said, although some sources said it can be as early as 12 hours.
"Go to your physician if you have a particularly severe case of gastroenteritis, especially if you have eaten peanut butter with 2111 on the lid," May said. "In most people, this is self-limited and they get better on their own."
Only in complicated cases are antibiotics prescribed, May said.
Salmonella infection is known each year to sicken about 40,000 people in the United States, according to the CDC. Salmonellosis, as the infection is known, kills about 600 people annually.
The new outbreak began in August, with two or fewer cases reported each day, CDC officials said. However, in the past few days investigators were able to hone in on a particular food, Lynch said.
The FDA sent investigators to ConAgra's processing plant in Sylvester where the products were made to review records, collect product samples and conduct tests for salmonella.
The FDA Wednesday also warned the public not to use and to dispose of Wild Kitty Cat Food found to have salmonella.
The specific products are Wild Kitty Raw All Natural, Frozen Cat Food - Chicken with Clam Recipe, net weight 3.5 ounces (100 grams) and 1 pound in plastic containers. Some of these containers may be uncoded.
The FDA said salmonella can cause serious illnesses in small children, frail or elderly people, and people and pets with weakened immune systems. People could catch salmonella from touching the food, pets that have eaten the food, or areas touched by the food or where the food has been stored.
The Wild Kitty Cat Food is sold nationwide to retail stores and through distributors and Internet sales. The manufacturer declined to recall this product despite several requests by the FDA that it do so.