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University of Iowa News Release


Feb. 23, 2007

UI Hygienic Laboratory Testing Finds Salmonella In Peanut Butter

The University Hygienic Laboratory (UHL) reported on Thursday that it successfully isolated salmonella from an open jar of Great Value peanut butter provided to a health department by a patient diagnosed with the disease.

To date, more than 329 people in 41 states have been sickened by this strain of salmonella (known as Salmonella enterica serotype Tennessee); six of those patients are in Iowa.

Initial testing determined that these individuals were suffering from the same strain of the illness, with peanut butter suspected as the culprit. Thursday's report provides the DNA proof to link the cases to the affected brand.

Following the numerous reports of salmonella that occurred as early as August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration previously advised consumers not to eat any Peter Pan peanut butter purchased since May 2006, and not to eat any Great Value peanut butter with the product code beginning with "2111" purchased since May 2006. Both brands are manufactured at the same ConAgra plant.

"The isolation of salmonella from the open jar of peanut butter is extremely useful to the epidemiologists in their investigation of this outbreak," says Mike Pentella, Ph.D., the UHL's interim associate director of infectious disease programs.

The confirmatory testing was led by UHL public health microbiologist Cathy Lord, with the assistance of UHL's Jennifer Boddicker, Ph.D., emerging infectious diseases fellow, and UHL public health microbiologists Alison Houston and Randy Groepper. Their findings were then reported on PulseNet, the international infectious disease database that allows laboratories to match the DNA fingerprints of bacteria from individuals.

"The ability of this lab to be among the first in the nation to isolate the organism is a testimony to the quality of work that people do here," said UHL Interim Director Chris Atchison. "Our staff is to be commended for working overtime to develop this result."

Salmonella is a bacterium that causes food borne illness with symptoms including diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping. At least 46 patients have been hospitalized from this outbreak. No deaths have been confirmed.

Consumers can find additional information about this case of salmonella online at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site at or by calling the CDC information line toll free at 800-CDC-INFO 800-232-4636.

The University Hygienic Laboratory is the state of Iowa's environmental and public health laboratory, with facilities located on the University of Iowa's Oakdale Campus in Iowa City and at the Iowa Lab Facilities in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb. Among its many services, the laboratory functions as a consultative and analytical support facility for state agencies, health professionals and citizens. UHL is part of the UI and has developed and maintained effective and productive collaborations with the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Geological Survey, and local public health agencies. The UHL performs analyses on samples from virtually all matrices, including human clinical specimens, air, drinking water, wastewater, soil, sediment, industrial effluents, oil and fish. In addition to performing analyses by specified methods, the UHL provides methods development and procedure verification for non-routine analyses. Additional information about UHL, its programs and services is available online at

STORY SOURCE: University Hygienic Laboratory, 102 Oakdale Campus, H101 OH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-5002

MEDIA CONTACT: Pat Blake, 319-335-4177,