How Does Salmonella Get Into Your Peanut Butter?

Are you nonplussed by the latest peanut butter scare? Here’s what you need to know about salmonella and peanut butter–and why, even if you throw your Skippy jars away, you should be concerned about why this contamination even happened at all.

Has this happened before?

Yes. There have been four peanut butter salmonella scares in the past 15 years, according to a 2009 article in Scientific American that examined another outbreak in 2008-2009.

How does poop get into peanut butter?

According to Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia in Griffin, “Feces from some animal is a strong possibility. A leak in the roof, for example, caused one of the early outbreaks. How salmonella got into the water that was on the roof, no one knows for sure. Maybe birds, for instance, which accumulate around peanut butter processing plants.”

Doesn’t roasting kill salmonella?

Yes. “The roasting of peanuts is the only step that will kill the salmonella,” Doyle says in the magazine’s report. However, “If contamination occurs after the roasting process, the game is over and salmonella is going to survive.”

How can this be avoided?

“The key,” says Doyle, “is to have a rigid system in place that does not allow contamination by water or other vectors after the roasting process. Water in a peanut butter processing plant is like putting gasoline on a fire. It will not only spread the salmonella, but the salmonella will grow when water is present.”

What can you do?

Make your own. If you really want to know what goes into your peanut butter, make it yourself. Many health food and grocery stores let you grind it yourself.


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