Recalled PB sent to KY!
Peanut butter recalled nearly 2 weeks earlier was in meals sent to Ky. ice storm victims
By BRETT BARROUQUERE, Associated Press
February 5, 2009
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nearly 168,000 emergency meal kits sent to Kentucky in the wake of an ice storm had been recalled more than two weeks earlier because some contained peanut butter that could have been contaminated by salmonella, federal officials said Thursday.
An apparent communication breakdown among federal officials allowed the kits to be sent to Kentucky to help feed hundreds of thousands of people left without power at the height of last week's storm. The storm also swept through Arkansas, but federal officials don't believe people there got the meal kits affected by the recall.
People were warned Thursday not to eat the peanut butter packets. No illnesses have been reported and recalls were ordered out of "an abundance of caution," said Jay Blanton, a spokesman for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.
The company that distributed the peanut butter packets used in the meals recalled them last month because of the salmonella outbreak suspected of sickening at least 575 people, eight of whom died. A Blakely, Ga., peanut-processing plant that produces a fraction of U.S. peanut products is being investigated in the outbreak.
The company that packaged the meals, Red Cloud Foods Inc., sent a memo dated Jan. 19 to the arm of the Department of Defense responsible for getting them to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But FEMA said it didn't learn of the recall until Wednesday, more than two weeks later.
Beshear had eaten some of the peanut butter while touring storm damage and said Thursday he felt "pretty good."
But people still in shelters because of the storm weren't so positive.
"You look forward to them helping and they're handing out things that are making it worse," said Rebecca Schmelz, who was at a shelter in downtown Greenville with her 6-month-old and 6-year-old sons.
She said her family had eaten several emergency meals but she did not believe any contained the peanut butter packets shown on a FEMA flier warning people about possible salmonella.
"I'm glad that my kids don't eat peanut butter, that's for sure," she said.
The kits, which contained entrees, cookies, chips and sometimes peanut butter packets, were assembled in September for relief efforts after Hurricane Ike, said Bob Harrison, chairman of South Elgin, Ill.-based Red Cloud Foods Inc.
Harrison said Red Cloud learned of the peanut butter recall and notified the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, an arm of the Department of Defense that supplies meals to FEMA, that it was recalling about 530,000 meals. Dennis Gauci, spokesman for the Defense Logistics Agency, which oversees the supply center, could not say when the recall notice was received from Red Cloud or when FEMA was notified.
FEMA spokeswoman Alexandra Kirin said the Food and Drug Administration notified it about 10 days ago that a different company had been added to the list of recalled products that might contain contaminated peanut butter. FEMA went through all of its prepared meals and found fewer than 10,000 made by that company. They were removed so disaster victims wouldn't get them.
On Wednesday, the FDA told FEMA that a new company, Red Cloud, had been added to the recall list. Red Cloud told FEMA it had notified the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia in January.
As of Thursday evening, FEMA did not know why Defense Supply Center Philadelphia did not tell it about that notification.
"So we need to find out about that," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
She said FEMA was telling people to throw away the packets and the meals would be replaced by Friday. She did not know if the new batch would include peanut butter products.
FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek said Thursday the agency could not answer questions from The Associated Press about the FEMA meals.
Kirin said 167,900 of the Red Cloud meals were distributed in Kentucky. It wasn't clear what happened to the rest of the 530,000 and whether any had been distributed to victims of Hurricane Ike or other disasters.
According to an internal briefing document Thursday morning, FEMA had delivered 959,000 meals to Kentucky in the aftermath of the ice storm, with 490,000 more on the way over the next few days. Arkansas received 468,864, and no more were expected.
Kentucky National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Connie Vick said emergency meals containing peanut butter had likely been distributed to nearly two dozen counties there.
Meals with the suspect peanut butter were found at Nelson Creek Missionary Baptist Church in western Kentucky, but only one had been taken and it wasn't eaten.
Nelson Creek Volunteer Fire Chief Terry Peveler said his wife, Michaelle, had planned to eat a meal that included peanut butter but didn't because her boss bought pizza. He said he wasn't angry at FEMA.
"If they hadn't handed them out, a lot of people would be starving," he said.
The salmonella outbreak has led to questions about Peanut Corp. of America and its Georgia plant operated. Authorities say Peanut Corp. shipped peanut butter, paste and other products that had tested positive for salmonella. The company retested, got a negative reading, and shipped the products. A criminal investigation is under way. The Lynchburg, Va.-based company denies any wrongdoing and said Wednesday that the Blakely plant received regular visits and inspections from state and federal authorities in 2008.
Associated Press writer Bruce Schreiner contributed to this report from Greenville, Ky.; Eileen Sullivan contributed from Washington; and Daniel Shea contributed from Little Rock, Ark.
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