Bacteria linked to contaminated peanut butter that has sickened hundreds of people has been traced to a plant owned by ConAgra Foods , where it was made, U.S. health regulators said on Thursday.
The Food and Drug Administration said it discovered the salmonella bacteria during an extensive inspection of the plant in Sylvester, Georgia, where Peter Pan peanut butter was made.
The plant has been closed since Feb. 16.
"The fact that FDA found Salmonella in the plant environment further suggests that the contamination likely took place prior to the product reaching consumers," the agency said.
FDA officials have warned consumers to avoid Peter Pan peanut butter bought since last May as well as any Great Value brand, sold by Wal-Mart , with lot number 2111 on the lid.
The contaminated products have sickened 329 people and sent 51 of them to the hospital.
The salmonella found by the FDA in the plant matched the outbreak strain from peanut butter samples recovered from people who fell ill, the FDA said.
The agency also said ConAgra had sent Peter Pan peanut butter to its Humboldt, Tenn., plant for use in ice cream and related toppings for such brands as Carvel and Sonic.
While those related products have already been recalled, officials warned consumers they may still have some of the products in their home.