How Does Jif Peanut Butter Get Salmonella, Anyway?

Nobody panic. The Uncrustables are going to be okay.

The J.M. Smucker Co.—maker of Jif peanut butter, Uncrustables, and many other popular products—recently recalled multiple peanut butters after several people became ill from salmonella, TODAY explains. But how is peanut butter at risk for salmonella bacteria in the first place?

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In this voluntary recall, Smucker worked with the Food and Drug Administration to track down the source of the contamination. It was traced back to a manufacturing facility in Lexington, Kentucky. The possibly contaminated products are linked to a total of 14 cases in which people became ill, and two out of the 14 were hospitalized.

Which Jif products are affected by the recall?

A long list of Jif's peanut butter products are part of the recall, including Creamy, Natural, Crunchy, and the squeezable pouch varieties, to name a few. The full list of products is available on the FDA's website.

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But don't worry, everyone, the Uncrustables are not part of this recall. I repeat: Uncrustables are not part of this recall. Thankfully, a representative for Jif told TODAY in an email, "This incident was isolated to our Lexington, KY, manufacturing facility and does not impact our other peanut-butter-producing facilities."

Although the company has taken action by recalling the products, it's still important for people to check their pantries and throw out any Jif products with lot codes including and between 1274425—2140425. You can find that lot code listed on the jar near the best-if-used-by date.

How does salmonella get in peanut butter?

Now, call it ignorance or just chalk it up to science not being my strongest subject, but I've always associated salmonella with foods like raw chicken or some bad spinach. The possibility that salmonella could contaminate jarred, processed peanut butter never crossed my mind.

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Consumer Reports explains that peanut butter can get contaminated via the environment of the production facility, and/or the machinery used during the production process. Though we might not associate salmonella with something we buy prepackaged, foods contaminated with salmonella can often look and smell normal, which makes hanging onto that jar of Jif despite this recall an extra risky move.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time salmonella has caused illness in people via peanut butter. A 2009 article from Scientific American, written when a different peanut butter salmonella outbreak was linked to more than 400 illnesses and three deaths nationwide, says that salmonella can survive many months in peanut butter. It's a bacteria that thrives in fatty foods, and peanut butter tends to contain a fair amount of fat.

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Be aware that salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain even in healthy people and can even be fatal to children, elderly people, or anyone with a weakened immune system.

So, check your jars of Jif and maybe consider switching over to Skippy for the time being. Once you're in the clear, get baking.

 

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