Friday, January 30, 2009


A funny bug was in the news lately.

The salmonella does not normally live in the human intestines (at least people don't think they do...). It is however a gut commensal in other animal species, particularly birds.. When we ingest these bugs, the salmonella can cause a bad diarheal disease, sometimes leading to severe dehydration or to a blood borne infection of other organs and even death. This infection is called samonellosis. One specific form of salmonellosis is what is normally recognized by the public as typhoid. See also review from US CDC on Salmonellosis.

Approximately 2 million to 4 million people get sick from salmonella in the United States each year, leading to close to 1,000 deaths. (see report). Our Ministry of Health reported that over the first 3 weeks of January, we had 9 cases of typhoid, 50 cases of salmonellosis and 1 case of paratyphoid. The equivalent figures for 2008 were 5, 76 and 1. For the whole of 2008, the figures were 84, 722 and 29.

The salmonella is frequently is contaminant of diary products, meat and eggs. But the recent contamination of peanut butter is a bit surprising. Normally contamination is disease causing only if the food is uncooked, but here, the contamination of peanut butter (how is not very clear...) led to an epidemic of salmonellosis in the US, with at least 500 people across 43 states affected and eight dying. The puzzle is that the salmonella should have been destroyed by the peanuts roasting and food processing. But this apparently is not a new problem because it happened once before in 2007 (also in Georgia). See Criminal Probe.

Our AVA, after their inspections, have declared us to be safe and free from this strange salmonellosis probelm affecting peanut butter.

Consumer Advisory- Update on Salmonella Contamination of US Produced Peanut Butter and Products Containing Peanut Butter

25 Jan 09: Further to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore's (AVA) alert notification on 18 Jan 09 regarding the outbreak of illnesses in the USA caused by Salmonella Typhimurium in peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at Blakely, Georgia processing plant, AVA has been actively monitoring the developments of the Salmonella contamination incident in the USA. AVA has also intensified its checks on products that contain peanut butter as an ingredient from the USA and other countries.

AVA’s checks confirmed that there is no import of peanut butter products from the affected PCA manufacturing facility into Singapore. Major brands of peanut butter produced in the US are not affected by the recall.

AVA’s tests for Salmonella in food products that contain peanut butter as an ingredient imported/sold in Singapore, found that all the products are not contaminated with Salmonella. Products tested included biscuits, candy, cereal/snack bars, chocolate, and ice cream.

In the USA, many other manufacturers have initiated the recall of their products on a voluntary basis as they may have used peanut butter from PCA as an ingredient for their products, although none of these products have been linked to the Salmonella outbreak. To date, more than 360 products have been recalled by these manufacturers, and more manufacturers are expected to recall their products on a voluntary basis.

Consumers need not be alarmed by these voluntary recalls initiated by the manufacturers in the USA. AVA has been monitoring the list of products that are recalled in the USA to ensure that they are also not sold in Singapore.

Consumers may search or download the updated list of products that have been recalled in the USA at the following website of the US Food and Drug Administration.

AVA advises consumers to discard the products containing peanut butter that have been recalled by the US manufacturers if they had purchased the products.

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