Just about a week ago, I alerted Supply Chain Matters readers to the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Center for Disease Control of a human outbreak of infection due to Salmonella serotype Typhimurium. At the time, 388 persons were identified as sickened, with ongoing investigations from multiple agencies to determine the cause. As of today, the number of reported sick has risen to 430, and five deaths have been reported across three states (Idaho, Minnesota, and Virginia).

It has not taken long to now identify the potential cause of this outbreak linked to peanut butter.  Virginia based Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), which distributes its peanut butter in bulk to institutions, private label food companies, and other food producers, issued a nationwide recall on January 13th for 21 lots of peanut butter made since July 1 at its plant located in Blakely Georgia.  PCA utilizes the brand Parnell’s Pride in its institutional products, and is also sold by the King Nut Company under the name of King Nut, An open container of King Nut peanut butter in a Minnesota long-term care facility was found to contain the strain of salmonella.

While FDA and media reports continue to stress that none of the recalled peanut butter is sold to end consumers in retail stores, the implications of the potential contamination will echo through various food production supply chains, and indirectly impact consumers.  The first indicator is that The Kellogg Company announced a precautionary hold of the sale of a variety of its Austin and Keebler branded peanut butter cracker  sandwiches.  Consumers and retail stores are being asked to hold onto the Kellogg products, but not eat them, until the investigation is complete.

We need to applaud PCA and King Nut for their prompt and proactive actions in voluntarily recalling their institutional products.  I especially applaud Kellogg for taking bold action to not only protect consumers, but proactively respond to a supply chain risk situation.  Crisis what-if, and business continuity planning are important tenets of an effective supply chain risk management plan.  This ongoing situation is yet another opportunity to observe these plans in action.  Other consumer product companies utilizing peanut butter or paste should focus upstream and proactively act.  Consumers and customers should be your first priority.

Bob Ferrari