While Hudson-area residents should heed the warnings not to eat recalled peanut products, they don't need to worry about products currently on store shelves or in school lunches being contaminated with salmonella.
That's the assessment of two grocers, the director of nutrition services for the Hudson School District and the St. Croix County health officer. The Star-Observer talked to the businessmen and public servants last week.
County Health Officer Wendy Kramer said there have been no reports of anyone in St. Croix County becoming ill from eating products from the Georgia peanut factory blamed for a nationwide salmonella outbreak.
Clinics and hospitals are required to report certain types of illnesses, including salmonella poisoning, to public health officials.
"What I would tell the public is: Do not eat any products that have been recalled. Throw them away in a manner to prevent others from eating them," Kramer said.
She also suggested postponing eating other peanut-butter-containing products such as cookies, crackers, candy and ice cream until information becomes available about whether the products are OK.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site, www.fda.gov, has a list of all the products that have been recalled because they contain peanut products from the Peanut Corp. of America plant in Blakely, Ga.
The Web site also has a wealth of other information about the outbreak that has sickened more than 500 people in 43 states and killed eight people.
Family Fresh Market, located in Hudson, is one of the stores listed on the FDA Web site as having had products recalled.
But William Looser, vice president of risk management for the store's parent company, Nash Finch, said the store acted quickly to remove any items that contained peanut products from the Georgia plant.
Family Fresh Market's name appears on the Web site as much as it does, Looser said, because Nash Finch erred on the side of caution in reporting products that might contain products from the Georgia facility.
Family Fresh Market purchased cookie dough containing peanut paste from the Georgia plant, Looser said. The cookies were baked at the Hudson store and sold by the dozen in plastic containers.
Looser said the peanut butter cookies were pulled from shelves as soon as the FDA issued a recall for the Best Brands dough.
Nash Finch also had its peanut-butter-containing baked goods put on the FDA list of recalled products and issued a press release asking customers to bring any they had purchased back to the store.
Looser said he isn't aware of anyone having become ill from eating a peanut-containing product from a Nash Finch store.
Nash Finch is one of the largest American grocery distributors and operates about 60 of its own stores under the names Econofoods, Sun Mart and Family Fresh Market. The company is headquartered in Edina, Minn.
"We've been very busy with it, I can tell you," Looser said of the salmonella scare.
He said Nash Finch has been alerted to recalls of some 100 products.
"It's really amazing the effect that one factory can have," he said. "It's just so prevalent through so many products."
None of the house brand Our Family and Value Choice brand products sold at Family Fresh Market - including jarred peanut butter, snack crackers, cookies, candies, snack bars and ice cream - were affected by the recalls.
Nash Finch has set up a recall hotline (1-800-211-6999) for customers with questions about the product recalls.
The local grocery stores also removed any brand name products on the FDA recall list from their shelves.
Those included Little Debbie Peanut Butter Cheese sandwich crackers, Keebler peanut butter cookies and Austin crackers.
"It was all taken care of immediately," Dana Glade, manager of County Market, said of the removal of recalled products from his store.
"Anything you buy in our store is safe," he said.
Glade said a state inspector paid a visit to County Market on Wednesday of last week and found it in compliance with the recall orders.
He added that County Market removed all bakery products containing peanut butter from its shelves, whether or not the peanut butter was from the contaminated Georgia factory, as a "preemptive measure."
Peanut butter sold in small containers is safe, Glade said. The tainted peanut butter and peanut paste from Peanut Corp. of America was shipped to food-making facilities in large containers.
School lunches are safe
Peggy Eller, nutrition services director for the Hudson School District, offered assurance that the lunches served to Hudson schoolchildren are safe.
"I have not heard of any schools that use that supplier," Eller said of the troubled Georgia company.
She said Hudson's public schools use very little peanut butter because of the number of children allergic to it. For that reason, too, the district pays close attention to what products contain peanuts, she said.
The peanut butter sandwiches that are served in Hudson public schools every day are made from U.S. Department of Agriculture commodity peanut butter, which Eller said has been deemed safe.
The only other peanut-butter-containing product the district buys, she said, is crispy rice treats from Hudson Bakery.
She said the bakery has certified to the school district that it doesn't use any peanut butter from Peanut Corp. of America.
Eller said she notified school principals and staff to pay attention to the snacks students are bringing from home to see that they aren't on the list of recalled products.
One teacher found a student with some of the recalled Austin crackers, she said.
Eller said school nurses and other staff have fielded a handful of calls from parents concerned about whether the school was serving any products from the contaminated Georgia factory.
Eller, in her second year as director of the district's nutrition services department, is a registered dietician by training.
She headed up the Baldwin-Woodville School District's lunch program for 16 years before coming to Hudson and has 30 years of experience in the food service industry.
The Hudson School District serves about 4,000 lunches every school day. Each of the eight schools (the high school, middle school and six elementary schools) has its own kitchen, staffed by a total of 60 cooks and assistants.
"It's about a $2 million budget, so it's quite a responsibility," Eller said. "But it's a wonderful job. The people that are working in our department love the kids and love food production. So I've found it a very rewarding experience."