The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent J.M. Smucker Co. a warning letter about food safety violations found during an inspection of the facility where Jif peanut butter is made after the product was linked to a 17-state Salmonella outbreak last year.
Genetic tests performed on the isolates from the people sickened in the outbreak showed they shared the same “fingerprint” of Salmonella Senftenberg which also matched a sample collected in 2010 from the plant where the peanut butter is made. This finding elicited concern from the FDA that the facility in Lexington, KY may have a “resident pathogen.”
The outbreak was announced on May 20, 2022, along with a major peanut butter recall. The inspection took place from May 19, 2022, through June 9, 2022. During this time period, the company posited, in a May 27, 2022 letter to the FDA, that Salmonella may have made its way into the building and the peanut butter through improperly installed cooling air supply vents on the peanut roaster. The botched December 10, 2021 installation allowed rainwater and unfiltered air into the section of the roaster where the peanuts are ready-to-eat, the company suggested. “Preventing water in dry processing environments for low moisture foods is essential to control environmental pathogens such as Salmonella,” the FDA states.
Upon the completion of the inspection, the FDA issued a report to the company outlining the violations found and instructions to provide a response as to how the problems had been addressed within a certain timeframe. The management at J.M. Smucker sent responses to the FDA on July 1, 2022, August 1, 2022, August 16, 2022, and October 4, 2022, describing the corrective actions that had been taken or planned. Finding these actions inadequate, the FDA sent the company a warning letter on January 24, 2023.
What the FDA Inspection Found
The company’s environmental monitoring records showed Salmonella was detected in four places in the facility on July 24, 2018, November 26, 2018, October 9, 2019, and November 4, 2019. The company determined that the root cause of contamination for each of these incidents were roof leaks or increased foot traffic during repairs in response to roof leaks.
In 2021, records revealed five swabs from various areas in the facility tested positive for Salmonella on July 6, July 8, July 12, September 3, and November 16, 2021. “Many of which were similar to locations where you detected Salmonella in 2018 and 2019, show that your corrective action procedures in response to environmental contamination in 2018 and 2019 were not sufficient to reduce the likelihood that environmental contamination would recur, as required by [law].”
During a four-month period from October 2021 to February 2022, Salmonella was found in finished, ready-to-eat products on seven occasions: October 22, 2021, December 15, 2021; and February 4, 9, 10, 20, and 21, 202. Again, corrective actions taken were not sufficient to address the root cause of the contamination, the FDA stated.
Also in February 2022, the company documented continuing problems with water in the facility. Specifically, on February 17-18, 2022, two puddles of water were found in the cooling zone, one of them measuring 4 feet by 8 feet.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection include fever, nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea that can be bloody. These symptoms usually develop within six to 72 hours of exposure and last about a week. Some infections are so severe that they require hospitalization. Four of the 21 people sickened in the Jif Salmonella outbreak were hospitalized.
The number of cases reported from each state was: Arizona (1), Arkansas (1), Florida (1) Georgia (2), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (1) Missouri (2), New York (1), North Carolina (2), Ohio (1) South Carolina (1), Texas (2), Virginia (1), Washington (1) and West Virginia (1)
Salmonella Lawyers with Experience
If you or a family member has been sickened by Jif peanut butter that was contaminated with Salmonella and you would like a free consultation with a Salmonella lawyer, please contact the Pritzker Hageman Salmonella Legal Team. Our attorneys have represented clients in every major Salmonella outbreak in the U.S. You can reach us by calling 1-888-377-8900, sending a text to 612-261-0856, or completing the form below. There is no obligation and we don’t get paid unless we win.