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Warning as six die in salmonella outbreak

HEALTH authorities in the United States have urged consumers to avoid eating cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods that contain peanut butter until authorities can learn more about a deadly outbreak of salmonella contamination.

Most peanut butter sold in jars at supermarkets appears to be safe, said Stephen Sundlof, head of the Food and Drug Administration's food safety center.

"As of now, there is no indication that the major national name-brand jars of peanut butter sold in retails stores are linked to the recall," Sundlof said.

Officials are focusing on peanut paste, as well as peanut butter, produced at a Blakely, Georgia, facility owned by Peanut Corp of America. Its peanut butter is not sold directly to consumers but distributed to institutions and food companies. But the peanut paste, made from roasted peanuts, is an ingredient in cookies, cakes and other products that people buy in the supermarket.

"This is an excellent illustration of an ingredient-driven outbreak," said Dr Robert Tauxe, who oversees foodborne illness investigations for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, more than 470 people have got sick in 43 states, and at least 90 had to go to hospital. At least six deaths are being blamed on the outbreak. Salmonella is a bacteria and the most common source of food poisoning in the US, causing diarrhea, cramping and fever.

The CDC said the bacteria behind the outbreak - typhimurium - is common and not an unusually dangerous strain but that the elderly or those with weakened immune systems were more at risk.

Kellogg, which listed Peanut Corp as one of its suppliers, has recalled 16 products. They include Austin and Keebler branded Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, and some snack-size packs of Famous Amos Peanut Butter Cookies and Keebler Soft Batch Homestyle Peanut Butter Cookies.

Peanut Corp has recalled all peanut butter produced at the Georgia plant since August 8 and all peanut paste produced since September 26.

It is not known if any of Peanut Corp's products - or foods made with them - were marketed abroad.


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