Salmonella cases mount as outbreak continues: CDC
Tue Mar 3, 2009 3:41pm EST

CHICAGO (Reuters) - People in the United States continue to become ill from peanut products contaminated with salmonella in an outbreak that has made 677 people sick in 45 states, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged people to check their cupboards for products containing peanuts or peanut butter made by Peanut Corp of America, the company at the center of the outbreak.

So far, more than 2,833 products have been pulled from store shelves since mid-January in what is considered one of the biggest food recalls in U.S. history.

The recall is the latest in a series involving tainted lettuce, peppers and spinach that have eroded public confidence in food safety and renewed calls for change at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Tuesday that would widen FDA powers to control food safety.

The CDC said while the number of new cases has declined modestly since December, the outbreak is continuing, noting that many people who have become ill recently reported eating peanut butter and other recalled products.

"FDA and CDC are concerned that illness will continue to occur if people eat recalled peanut-containing products that are still on their shelves at home," the CDC said on its website.

"Consumers should check at home for recalled peanut butter containing products and discard them," the CDC urged.

The first illnesses were reported in September 2008, and the most recent began on February 8, 2009, the CDC said. More than half of the illnesses are in children, and 21 percent are in those under age 5.

The salmonella outbreak, linked to 9 deaths, has been traced to plants in Georgia and Texas operated by Peanut Corp of America.

(Editing by Maggie Fox)

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