New cases of salmonella poisoning linked to tainted peanut products have slowed so much that federal officials will no longer provide weekly updates for one of the nation's largest-ever foodborne outbreaks.
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But they're stopping short of declaring the danger done.
"No, the outbreak is not over," said Lola Russell, a spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some 692 people in 46 states and Canada have been sickened in the outbreak since last fall, according to figures posted Tuesday in what officials said was the last planned public update of the problem. Salmonella poisoning contributed to nine deaths, and more than 3,400 potentially tainted peanut products have been recalled.
The CDC has been reporting between five and 10 new confirmed cases a week for more than a month. Half of the new cases have been reported in people who ate tainted peanut butter crackers manufactured by the Kellogg Co.
Russell said information about new cases would be available by request, but that CDC officials decided to use employees for other duties.
"We feel that it is pretty much declining," she said. "Most people aren't checking the weekly update."
The salmonella outbreak has been traced to tainted peanuts at processing plants operated by Peanut Corporation of America. The incident has galvanized calls for reform of the nation's food safety system.
It was detected in November, when CDC's PulseNet staff noted a cluster of 13 unusual salmonella strains in 12 states.
Russell said the outbreak likely would be declared over when even fewer new cases were confirmed.
"The assumption is when we're not seeing any more," she said.
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