By The Associated Press
Timeline of key events in ConAgra Foods Inc.’s recall of all peanut butter made at its Sylvester, Ga., plant:
August 2006 — First cases of Salmonella Tennessee, the rare strain linked to this outbreak, are reported.
August 2006 — Moisture invades ConAgra plant in Sylvester through a roof leak and the building’s fire sprinkler system, which goes off twice because of a faulty sprinkler head. Company officials would later blame this moisture for helping salmonella bacteria grow in the plant.
Feb. 14, 2007 — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce that the salmonella outbreak is linked to Peter Pan peanut butter. The CDC and state health agencies had noticed a spike in cases of people sickened with the Salmonella Tennessee strain, and interviews with victims revealed peanut butter as a link.
Feb. 14, 2007 — ConAgra announces a recall of all Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter made at the plant. The affected jars all carried a product code beginning with "2111." NOTE – The recall first was from August 2006 it was then extended back to October 2004 – Why?
Feb. 20, 2007 — ConAgra estimates that its nationwide recall of peanut butter will cost between $50 million and $60 million.
March 7, 2007 — CDC announces that 425 people in 44 states have become ill with Salmonella Tennessee. The onset dates for most of those cases range between Aug. 1, 2006, and Feb. 16, 2007. Two-thirds of those cases were reported between Dec. 1 and Feb. 16.
April 5, 2007 — ConAgra releases findings of its investigation and blames moisture for helping salmonella spread. Company also announces plans to renovate the plant.
Despite the AP report, I have learned that the current Salmonella Tennessee case stool and urine positives (substantial numbers of ill people had urinary tract infections instead of stool cultures) have risen to 563 in 47 States. The first reported case is in August 2006 and remaining constant, but low, through September, spiking in October, November, December and then starting to trend down in January and February 2007. There does not appear to be a significant number of matched Salmonella Tennessee cases pre-August 2006 (ten in August and thirteen January to July 2006 and thirty cases in 2005) that are EPI-linked to Peanut Butter despite the recall date being extended to October 2004 (I am not aware of many matched Salmonella Tennessee cases in 2004, although there may well be a few).
We generally use the CDC estimates of unreported illnesses (caused by no or lost stool or urine cultures) at about 20 to 30 times the official CDC number (here 563 during the months of August 2006 and February 2007). We therefore think that the actual number of cases is likely to be between 11,260 and 16,89