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Peanut butter food poisoning cases top 500

/ Source: staff and news service reports

Confirmed cases of salmonella infection linked to tainted peanut butter continue to grow, rising to 501 in 43 states, according to latest figures from federal health officials.

New cases were reported as of late Sunday by states involved in the outbreak, including Arizona, Iowa, New Jersey, New York and Oregon. One ill person has been reported from Canada.

The mounting numbers of foodborne illness have been accompanied by a deluge of recalled cakes, crackers, cookies, ice cream, energy bars and more from dozens of manufacturers and retailers who bought peanut butter and peanut paste products from a Blakely, Ga., commercial processing facility.

Even companies not linked to the tainted products made at the Peanut Corp. of America plant have pulled peanut butter foods to assuage worried consumers. On Monday, Starbucks Corp. announced it removed all peanut butter treats from stores in the U.S. and Canada.

To help consumers, the Food and Drug Administration has set up a searchable list of recalled peanut products on its Web site. No major brands of peanut butter sold in jars have been implicated.

Peanut butter is not normally thought of as a high-risk product for salmonella infection. The bacteria, a frequent source of food poisoning, are supposed to be killed off in the roasting process. Officials say the bacteria remain dormant in the peanut butter until eaten, when they start growing and cause infection.

Originally the problem appeared limited to peanut butter shipped in big tubs to institutional customers such as nursing homes. But then peanut paste was implicated. Made from ground roasted peanuts, it is used as an ingredient in dozens of other products sold directly to consumers.

Investigators from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are continuing to look for a precise source of the contamination, a spokeswoman said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.