by Marion Nestle
Feb 18 2009

Peanut butter recalls: the Harvard Survey

Some group at Harvard does telephone surveys of consumer attitudes and did one about the recallsNews accounts say that nearly all of the more than 1,000 respondents had heard about the recalls, but about a quarter of them erroneously thought that national brands of peanut butter in jars had been recalled.  Companies that put peanut butter in jars must do their own roasting, which is why they are announcing their safety in ads and on websites.   Consumers, the survey found, were not aware of the range of products affected.  How could they be?  I get announcements of newly recalled products every day and the total now exceeds 2,000. The take-home lesson?  Until we have a decent food safety system in place, avoid mass-produced foods with multiple ingredients (especially if you don’t know what they are or where they came from), buy local, and consider cooking – it solves a lot of safety problems.  Other ideas?

  • Even after a better food infrastructure is in place, I still believe local is the way to go (although it would be nice to eat peanut butter once in awhile without fear of illness or death – is it so much to ask?)

    I’m a locavore and am active in the food movement in my community, but there is always room for improvement. Just this past month, I switched from Arrowhead Mills rice (grown in my home state of Texas) to RiceSelect (also grown in Texas) because it is a smaller company and when I tried to contact both about their products, I still haven’t heard from Arrowhead Mills whereas RiceSelect emailed me back within a few hours. I like the attention and response time of Rice Select (which I know has been raised 130 miles from home).

    It’s not as perfect a buy as all the food I buy from our farmers market, but it’s definitely a mindful decision. And that’s what we need more of in our food system – mindfulness. It IS food after all. How much more basic can it get?

  • Sheila

    Would this be a good place to plug home-grown or community garden grown foods? I think these options offer more control over how the food is handled and cleaned. Now is the time of year people can order seed, start designing a garden, and give themselves the option of really fresh food, great flavor, and control of the food safety.

  • Nic

    I just try to purchase as many local and simple (non-processed) foods as possible. I have been happily enjoying my peanut butter.

    I also think people need to start contacting their representatives and making more noise about this issue.

  • MikeP

    What about Girl Scout cookies? They aren’t homemade, but the organization depends on us for the money they need to run their worthwhile organization. It’s hard to completely avoid processed foods.

  • Daniel Ithaca,NY

    Eating locally grown (in season!) foods more often is a great plan.
    Since I’ve taken another cooking class, I purchase more whole food and prepare more meals at home.

    >>Re: “What about Girl Scout cookies?”
    Good point MikeP. The Girl Scouts is a wonderful organization that has costs and deserves support. Donations are an option.
    I’m curious though, when will they stop using children to sell high sugar/high calorie cookies? Most of these costly treats also contain hydrogenated oil/trans fat, though advertised as 0grams (it’s per serving and they rounded down). That stuff is toxic!
    Surely with all those wonderful minds they could have a contest or something and create new fund-raising ideas.

    A possible solution: the organization becomes mindful of the obesity crisis and gets out of the junk food business, at the same time they allow their scouts to be creative and show off their works of art, perhaps with screen-printing each girl’s designs onto t-shirts or mugs, etc.
    I’m sure it would bring more joy to the scouts to see grandma proudly wearing a t-shirt her granddaughter designed than to see her munching on cookies.