Poisoned Accidentally – The Jif Peanut Butter Mystery
When a TikToking mom and her family of three kept getting sick every Monday for nine weeks, it was a medical mystery that was finally solved: they were being poisoned by salmonella found in Jif peanut butter. Her video of discovery gained 1.9 million views, with many TikTokers commenting that they experienced the same symptoms.
It turns out that Jif peanut butter had just voluntarily recalled a list of its products in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration. Here is more information on this food recall, what caused it, and what consumers need to know to protect themselves from food recalls in general.
What is Salmonella?
Salmonella bacteria was first discovered by American scientist Dr. Daniel Salmon in 1885. Today, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that salmonella is the cause of 1.35 million illnesses, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths each year.
Most people with a salmonella infection experience diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps that begin anytime between six hours and six days after the initial infection and last four to seven days. In the case of the sick family-of-three mystery, their symptoms also included a fever for 12 hours at a time.
Salmonella lives in the intestines of people and animals, so the infection can be contracted by:
- Touching infected animals, their feces, or anything in their environment
- Eating contaminated food or water
The good news is that most people recover from a salmonella infection in four to seven days without antibiotics and just by drinking extra fluids.
What to Know About the Jif Peanut Butter Recall
In June 2022, Jif voluntarily recalled a list of products to be proactive for the safety of Jif customers. The nearly 50 products range from 48-ounce peanut butter to twin packs and to-go containers to squeeze packs and more.
Jif asked consumers to pay attention to the first seven digits of the product code: 1274425-2140425. The last three digits, 425, are vital to the recall for reimbursement purposes.
The recall occurred when Jif discovered that there was an equipment issue at a Lexington, Kentucky, plant, where water was entering and remaining in the production area and allowing bacteria into the system that led to the salmonella contamination.
What to Know About Food Recalls
There is a rise in food recalls worldwide, but there are ways to protect loved ones from getting sick by being informed. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 1 out of 10 people are victims of a foodborne illness (1 out of 6 in the United States), with 420,000 of those cases resulting in death.
Food recalls happen when an issue with food production is suspected or confirmed and could put consumers’ health at risk. The USDA monitors meat, poultry, and egg issues, and the FDA oversees dairy, fruits, vegetables, and food additives. Issues can include:
- An allergen from cross-contamination in the manufacturing process
- A mismarked product or a pathogen that caused contamination
- A foreign substance in the food, such as wood, plastic, metal, or insects
Unfortunately, food recalls are on the rise, with one happening practically every day. Food recalls increased by nearly 93 percent between 2012 and 2017, with the biggest cause linked to bacterial contamination at 44 percent in 2017. On the positive side, this increase in food recalls means that food companies are becoming more transparent in the reporting process due to new technology and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act was passed in 2011. This is despite the food recall process costing manufacturers an average of $10 million in direct costs.
Why Is There an Increase in Food Recalls?
There are several culprits for the increase in food recalls, thanks to the modern convenience of food preparation, which include:
The Factory Farming of Animals
The factory farming of animal products and produce contaminated with pathogens, such as salmonella, have spiked the amount of food recalls. The romaine lettuce recall in 2018 is a perfect example. Because of an industrial cattle farm located near the romaine field, animal waste running down into the crop’s irrigation water contaminated the lettuce, which resulted in an E.coli infection that affected 36 states and 210 illnesses.
More Frequent Antibiotic-Resistant Pathogens in Foods
Today’s meat industry adds antibiotics into animal feed to boost weight gain and health in the animals’ poor living conditions. About 63,000 tons of antibiotics are used to raise cows, chickens, and pigs every year, according to a study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s four times as many pounds as the antibiotics doctors prescribe to humans, which has led to antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.”
An Increase in Prepared Foods
Prepared foods are the most common food category to be recalled, which includes pre-made items like sandwiches/wraps, salads, pizzas, and more. The next most recalled food category is baked goods. Industrial meat products (meat, seafood, fresh produce), however, pose the most significant health risk, causing the majority of foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. It can all be traced back to factory farms, feedlots, and overall animal agriculture.
What to do if Involved in a Food Recall
If a loved one has gotten sick because of ingesting a product involved in a food recall, it is best to follow these steps to protect them and the general public:
- Save the item by storing it in a safe place, any documents, and packaging.
- Take down information on the product, such as the manufacturer, the serial number, and the place and date it was purchased.
- Get the name, number, and address of any witnesses.
What to Do to Protect Yourself from Food Recalls
Anyone that suspects their illness can be linked to food that has been recalled has the right to file a lawsuit against the food company for compensation because of the medical costs, pain, and suffering they have endured. A personal injury attorney specializing in food recalls can expertly handle all aspects of the case, which could include an illness caused by any of these pathogens:
- E. coli
- Hepatitis A
- Listeria monocytogenes