Salmonella Outbreak FEMA
AP
Kentucky stopped distributing FEMA emergency meal kits for victims of last week's ice storm after authorities warned that the kits may include packets of peanut butter, like this one, recalled over potential salmonella. No illnesses have been reported, but several people consumed the suspect plastic packets of peanut butter.
updated 2/5/2009 2:09:45 PM ET 2009-02-05T19:09:45

Kentucky stopped distributing FEMA emergency meal kits for victims of last week's ice storm Thursday after authorities warned that the meals may include packets of peanut butter recalled because of possible salmonella.

The kits were shipped to Arkansas and Kentucky to help feed some of the 1.3 million people left without power for days at the height of last week's ice storm. No illnesses have been reported, but several people consumed the suspect plastic packets of peanut butter.

The recalls were ordered out of "an abundance of caution," said Jay Blanton, a spokesman for Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. He said even the governor had eaten some of the peanut butter while touring storm damage. In an attempt to downplay the situation, Beshear lightheartedly said Thursday he feels "pretty good."

The salmonella outbreak is suspected of sickening at least 550 people across the country, eight of whom have died, and led to recalls of thousands of consumer products. A Blakely, Ga., peanut-processing plant that produces a fraction of U.S. peanut products is being investigated in the outbreak.

Nearly 1 million meals delivered
According to an internal FEMA briefing document dated 8 a.m. Thursday, FEMA has delivered 959,000 meals to Kentucky in the aftermath of the ice storm, with 490,000 more on the way over the next few days.

FEMA Acting Director Nancy Ward said during a visit to Kentucky Thursday that the agency learned about 10 days ago that some of its stockpile of meal kits included peanut butter affected by the recall. It sorted through national inventories and pulled out about 10,000 meals, she told The Associated Press.

The company that produced the food kits, Red Cloud Food Service Inc., had earlier identified 530,000 meals that needed to be recalled, according to a Jan. 19 memo posted on FEMA's Web site. But Ward said the agency learned late Wednesday afternoon from the Food and Drug Administration that "the footprint of (the) national recall got larger," affecting more meals that hadn't been included before.

State emergency workers in Arkansas identified four trailers containing the food kits, but they had not been distributed.

"This is a very aggressive national recall, and as a result we're taking a very proactive approach," said FEMA spokesman Bob Alvey. "So far we've been lucky and there have been no reported illnesses."

Kentucky National Guard Col. Phil Miller said guardsmen there are posting fliers at food distribution points, advising people to throw out the peanut butter.

The outbreak has led to questions about how the company and the Georgia plant operated. Authorities say Peanut Corp. of America shipped peanut butter, paste and other products that had tested positive for salmonella. The company retested, got a negative reading, and shipped the products. A criminal investigation is under way. The Lynchburg, Va.-based company denies any wrongdoing and said Wednesday that the Blakely plant received regular visits and inspections from state and federal authorities in 2008.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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