For Lunch: Peanut Butter & Salmonella?

It's healthy. It's all-American. And now it's striking fear in the hearts of some American mothers -- and a different kind of feeling in their stomachs, and those of their kids.

Peanut butter. Suddenly, eating it is apparently making hundreds of Americans sick.

In Oklahoma City, after Chantel Gilbert fed her six kids peanut butter, they all got sick. When she ate it, she got sick, too. She's pregnant, and her stomach issues got her so dehydrated, she had to be hospitalized twice. Chantel just assumed a virus was knocking down her family like bowling pins. Then she happened to read on-line about an on-going recall involving an unlikely source of thte food poisoning: peanut butter. In fact, salmonella poisoning in peanut butter was found once in Austrailia, but never before in America. Sure enough, the jars of peanut butter in Chantel's pantry matched the serial numbers in the recall.

The brands of tainted peanut butter are Peter Pan, and Great Value (sold only at Wal-Mart). All the jars suspected in the outbreak of food poisoning have the serial number 2-1-1-1. Grocers started pulling jars from the shelves on Wednesday morning, after the Food and Drug Administration gave notice about the potential health worry. It took health inspectors six months to trace the suspected source. The type of salmonella was unusual. The poisoning spread slowly to thirty-nine states. And most of us can barely remember what we ate yesterday. Inspectors were asking people who got sick to try to remember what they had been eating weeks earlier. There were plenty of people to ask. Since last August, nearly three-hundred people coast-to-coast have become sick after eating the brands now being recalled.

Salmonella poisoning usually happens in animal products. It's potentially fatal, but usually you just spend an uncomfortable week shuttling back and forth to the bathroom. Everyone involved -- from the sickened families to the health inspectors -- was surprised to learn of all places, peanut butter was the suspected problem.

Then there's this. First we had the consumer recall. And now, another response that's as American today as peanut butter itself. First thing Friday morning, lawyers in Minnestoa are filing the first lawsuit on behalf of a sickened family.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.