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LI's Hain Celestial recalling salmonella-tainted peanut butter

Hain Celestial's offices at 1111 Marcus Ave. in

Hain Celestial's offices at 1111 Marcus Ave. in Lake Success. A division of the food producer is voluntarily recalling several lots of its peanut and almond butters because of possible contamination with salmonella bacteria. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A division of Long Island food producer, Hain Celestial, is voluntarily recalling several lots of its peanut and almond butters because of possible contamination with salmonella bacteria.

The products are sold as Arrowhead Mills peanut butter and MaraNatha almond and peanut butters as well as private label organic almond butters sold at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. About 45 production lots are affected by the recall. The products are part of Hain Celestial's unit known as nSpired Foods.

A spokesman for The Hain Celestial Group of Lake Success would not discuss the products and referred all questions to its affiliates' websites. Hain Celestial serves as headquarters for a vast organic foods empire in several states.

The contamination was found at nSpired's plant in Ashland, Oregon, where a routine federal inspection turned up evidence of the bacteria last month, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency initiated its latest round of analyses on July 15 in an inspection that is still ongoing, an FDA report shows.

Another division, Texas-based Arrowhead Mills, sells organic nut butters produced by the Oregon plant. In a statement Thursday, Maureen Putman, Arrowhead Mills' president said her company is working with the FDA to remedy the problem.

"All our retail partners have been notified and are removing and destroying the affected Arrowhead Mills products from store shelves and warehouses," Putman said, adding that anyone who has purchased any of the possibly tainted foods to dispose of them and their containers. The company emphasized that products should not be returned to grocers.

Products under a variety of brand names are sold throughout the United States as well as in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the Dominican Republic.

Four people in Connecticut, Iowa, Tennessee and Texas have become ill as a result of consuming the nut butters, according to Arrowhead Mills.

Federal health authorities, however, do not as yet have an updated list of those who've become ill, but at least one person required hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which Thursday identified the contaminating bacterium as salmonella Braenderup.

Salmonella is a complex bacterial species, said Dr. Roy Stigbigel, a distinguished service professor of medicine and microbiology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

The species is loosely divided into two broad classes, Stigbigel explained -- typhoidal and non-typhoidal. Salmonella Braenderup belongs to the latter.

Typical symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, Stigbigel said.

It can take as many as three days for symptoms to emerge following exposure to the bacterium. Illness usually runs a short course of three days to a week in otherwise healthy people.

The CDC Thursday advised consumers to discard containers of the products, including those that have been partially eaten because the products have a long shelf life and salmonella Braenderup can continue to grow.

Salmonella contamination of peanut and other nut butters has a deep and storied past. In recent years there have been several scares surrounding these foods, including a nationwide outbreak involving products from the former Peanut Corporation of America.

Starting in late 2008 and continuing into 2009, more than 714 people in 46 states became ill with salmonella Typhimurium after consuming the company's products.In 2007, ConAgra's Peter Pan peanut butter and Great Value branded products, were at the core of 628 cases of salmonella infection in 41 states.

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