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Peanut Contamination Felt Nationwide

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, February 16, 2009 10:25 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Salmonella, Foodborne Illness, Public Health, Product Liability, Peanuts, PCA, FDA, CDC

Industry involving peanuts is devastated following PCA problems.

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IMAGE SOURCE:   WikiMedia Commons 

 

Peanuts are a cheap substitute for meat and in an economy in a nosedive might normally be experiencing robust sales.  Not this year. 

In the midst of a nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to the Blakely, Georgia facility of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) that has sickened roughly 600 and is linked to nine deaths, the industry is reeling.

“Public perception is killing us,” Shelly Nutt, executive director of the peanut producers board tells Associated Press.

Peanuts are big business. Last year producers nationwide had a record 2.6 million ton crop, a surplus year.  Revenue generated from peanuts can mean up to $1 billion for Texas, $2.5 billion for Georgia every year.

Even though Peanut Corp. of America handles just 2.5 percent of all peanuts processed into peanut butter and peanut products, the industry is suffered at least a 22 percent reduction in sales in January. February’s numbers look even worse.

Everyone Affected

Jarred peanut butter made by Smuckers, Skippy, and Peter Pan are not included in the recall.  PCA only produced peanut butter in a jar for industrial use – schools and nursing homes.

But the recall extends to cereal, candy, ice cream, cookies, pet treats, anything that can contain peanut meal that can be sourced back to the plant.

The peanut shelling industry which buys the raw crop and prepares peanuts for processing is bracing for the worst as are growers in the state.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection report finds PCA shipped peanut products on at least a dozen occasions when it had tested positive for salmonella over the last two years.

"It's a shame that one company could tear down a complete industry," said Otis Johnson, a Seminole, Texas, peanut farmer who chairs the state's producer board tells AP. "As the story unfolds, I think there's more outrage."

 Latest Update

PCA filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Friday and plans to liquidate its assets. The company is under FBI investigation as is its Texas plant where the discovery of rodents and feces has companies destroying anything that came from there.  

And while PCA denies any wrongdoing, the Atlanta Journal Constitution says regaining confidence of the consumer will take an upheaval system wide, beginning with inspectors.  There are 60 employed by the state to oversee 16,000 facilities statewide that deal with food.  

There are calls that Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin resign and questions why the Food and Drug Administration farms out responsibility to a state agency to perform inspections as it has done in Georgia over peanuts since 2001.

Mike Bryant of IB, Minnesota, reminds us that the federal government’s system of having to seek permission from PCA before initiating a recall shows what little authority regulators have over industry.

IB News partner, Childers, Schlueter, of Atlanta, has begun to file individual lawsuits against PCA.  

The industry is listing safe peanut products in hopes that it will lure them back to this previous American staple.

With 637 salmonella sicknesses reported from 44 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the outbreak continues but seems to be on a slow decline.  #


1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by bobby vaentine
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 12:08 PM EST

whoa

Comments for this article are closed.

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