The recall of mainstream and organic food items that contain peanuts and peanut paste produced by Peanut Corp. of America is complicated by their use in thousands of food items sold by more than 200 companies in the United States and abroad.

Epidemiologist Greg Steele, DrPH, MPH, an associate professor of public health at the Indiana University School of Medicine, offers the following tips for keeping potentially deadly salmonella off the menu.

Regularly visit the FDA website. It has a searchable database of recalled products. Browsing through the recall list can be overwhelming, Dr. Steele says, so he suggests writing down and searching for the brand names of items you purchase routinely.

Read food labels. Examine the list of ingredients for your favorite cookies, cereal, ice cream, snacks and pet food. A product’s name may not indicate it contains peanut products, but the label will disclose this information.

Ask questions. Food affected by the recall should already have been pulled from store shelves. If you have questions about particular products, ask supermarket staffers if the products you want to buy are on the recall list.

Take advantage of available public-health resources. In Indiana, for example, the state’s health department established a toll-free number (877-499-0017) to help residents with recall-related questions. After just one day of operation, the phone line received more than 900 calls. The FDA can be reached toll-free: (888) 723-3366, and the CDC’s website offers information in numerous formats, including video, mobile and e-mail. You may also call the CDC: (800) 232-4636; TTY: (888) 232-6348.

Prevent problems. To be safe, avoid foods that contain peanut ingredients for the time being. That said, remember that the list of recalled products includes no major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores.

Photo courtesy of the Indiana University School of Medicine