And The List Goes On …

So, my “real job” is in the medical publishing industry, and because of this, I subscribe to a zillion healthcare-related newsletters to stay abreast of what’s going on in medicine … and I’ve been inundated with all of the peanut-related recall notices that flood my inbox each day.

On January 12th, the FDA, the CDC, the USDA, and public health officials began investigating an ongoing, multi-state outbreak of human salmonella infections, which suggested peanut butter as a likely source.

On January 16th, they traced the likely source of salmonella to a Georgia plant owned by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), which manufactures peanut butter and peanut paste, a concentrated product consisting of ground, roasted peanuts.

The peanut butter sold by PCA is distributed in bulk containers ranging in size from 5 to 1,700 pounds, and the peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to product sold by the tanker container.

Neither of these products are sold directly to consumers, but the FDA has determined that PCA distributed potentially contaminated product to more than 100 consignee firms, for use as an ingredient in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy, ice cream, and dog biscuits. The FDA also determined that some of the peanut butter was distributed in bulk to large institutions, such as nursing homes and hospitals.

PCA recalled all peanut butter produced on or after August 8, 2008, and all peanut paste produced on or after September 26, 2008, in Georgia plant, but recently they expanded the recall to include all peanuts and peanut products processed in the Georgia facility since January 1, 2007. The expanded recall includes all peanuts (dry and oil roasted), granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter, and peanut paste.

A full list of recall products can be found here, and the FDA has created a searchable database for these products, which can be found at here.

The lastest news from the FDA confirms that the source of the salmonella outbreak was the peanut butter and peanut paste produced at PCA’s Georgia plant, and there is no evidence to suggest that the salmonella contamination originated with any manufacturing facility other than PCA.

The Georgia plant has been shut down, but a history of unsanitary conditions and salmonella contamination has come to light (a complete list of problems observed by FDA investigators during their inspection has been issued) … and possibly the worst news of all is that the company knowingly distributed contaminated peanut butter 12 times in the past 2 years.
This article from The Washington Post that details the history of inspection at the PCS plant in Georgia is an eye-opener … and it reinforces that fact that we should all know exactly where our food comes from.

But, while I try to buy local as much as humanly possible, living in the Midwest means that I have to occasionally shop at a grocery store for some cooking and baking staples … and Heather at Simple – Green – Frugal says just what I’ve been thinking:

“There has to be a happy medium here. Most of our foods should, I think, come from local sources (because they are healthier for us and the environment that way). But I also think that we should be able to enjoy some of the foods we consider staples without worrying about mercury, salmonella, and all those other “nasties” that make their way into our food supply. What about rice, whole wheat flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt? For some of us, a few of these things might be local, but most of us can’t go 100% local without giving up baking entirely. Is it possible to find a happy medium between a local diet and nutrient-dense, environmentally responsible, but manufactured food?”

So, dear readers, is it?