Clark County food banks hit by recall

Loss of high-protein nut butters blow to county's needy

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian arts & features reporter

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A natural food manufacturer has announced a nationwide, voluntary recall of some peanut butter and almond butter products due to potential salmonella contamination. Some of the products were sold or distributed in this area.

Hain Celestial Group of Lake Success, N.Y., said there are reports of four illnesses that may be related to its nut butters.

The affected products are Arrowhead Mills peanut butters and MaraNatha almond butters and peanut butters. Also being recalled are some lots of private-label almond butter from grocers Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Kroger and Safeway. A total of 45 production lots are affected. The products have been sold in Canada, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates as well as the United States.

A detailed list of the products affected, complete with product codes and "best by" dates, is online at www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm410533.htm. If you've got anything on the list, just throw it away.

The contamination risk was identified during routine testing by the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA said it does not know how many jars of nut butters have been recalled.

Also, a statement from the Oregon Food Bank warns that some of the affected products that were donated by the manufacturer may already have been distributed to food banks and pantries throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. That includes the central Clark County Food Bank, which redistributes food to numerous smaller pantries here.

Affected products from OFB would bear a white "distributed by Oregon Food Bank" label and a "best by" date of July 15, 2015 or earlier, according to the statement.

"The product we got from the Oregon Food Bank is specifically labeled. We clearly know what it is and we have set it aside," said James Fitzgerald, operations manager for the Clark County Food Bank. "We have alerted our partner agencies to take it out of their inventories as well."

At least 2,500 pounds of nut butter have been removed from the food stream that moves through the Clark County Food Bank, Fitzgerald said. That's a serious hit for Clark County's needy, he said, because nut butter is a such high-quality, high-protein food.

"Peanut butter is so expensive. It's one of the hardest things for us to get. People typically don't donate it a lot," Fitzgerald said. "We are going to miss having it. It's a significant amount of product that won't make it into hungry mouths."

Typical symptoms of salmonella infection are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. These symptoms generally develop within one to three days of exposure to the bacterium and may last for up to a week. While anyone can become ill from exposure to salmonella, health officials say the risk of infection is particularly high for children, elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

There have been several major salmonella outbreaks in recent years, including infected peanuts that sickened more than 700 people in 2008 and 2009 and Foster Farms chicken that is linked to a strain of salmonella that has made more than 500 people sick over the last year and a half.