by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Peanut-butter

Jan 29 2009

Latest chapter in peanut butter saga

The CDC reports more than 500 cases and 8 deaths from Salmonella typimurium in peanut butter produced at a single plant in Georgia owned by Peanut Corporation of America (PCA).

Fortunately, the number of reported cases is going down.FDA officials reveal that the PCA plant has a history of knowingly shipping peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella. But these incidents did not involve the same strain.

The peanut industry says this is one bad peanut and everyone else’s peanuts are OK.

I say (again and again): Peanuts are not kcovered by standard food safety regulations (voluntary Good Manufacturing Practices demonstrably do not work).  We need HACCP food safety regulations – with Pathogen Reduction –  for all foods, from farm to table.

January 30 update: Apparently, the New York Times editorial staff agrees with me!  And no wonder, given what their reporters are saying about ithis incident.

Jan 27 2009

Which peanut butter products are OK?

I wondered how the Peanut trade groups were dealing with this situation.  The American Peanut Council posts lists of products that are not affected by the recalls–at least not yet.

Jan 26 2009

Peanut butter and pet foods

One more thing about the peanut butter recalls; they affect pet foods.  I can’t help saying it, but I did say that pet foods matter (and thanks to OrangeCloud for reminding me).  One of the points of Pet Food Politics was to demonstrate that the food supplies for pets, farm animals, and people are one and the same and cannot be separated.  If a safety problem affects pet foods, you can be sure that the same kind of problem will affect people food.  Examples: melamine in Chinese infant formula, and now peanut butter.

Lots of pet foods, especially treats, contain peanut butter and guess where that peanut butter comes from?  It comes from the same plant in Georgia that sends peanut butter everywhere else. Here are the recalled pet foods, so far:

Avanza Supermarket
Econofoods (Excluding Wisconsin stores in Sturgeon Bay, Clintonville, Marquette, Holton and Iron Mou
Family Fresh Market
Family Thrift Center
Food Bonanza
Grreat Choice
Pick’n Save (Ohio stores in Van Wert and Ironton only)
Prairie Market
SunMart Foods
Wholesale Food Outlet

Recalled pet food ingredients: Peanut Corporation of America or Parnell’s Pride

Jan 25 2009

Update on the peanut butter recalls

I was interviewed for 5 seconds on ABC News last night about the peanut butter recalls (look for Saturday, January 25, “Salmonella outbreak worsens”).  So far, nearly 500 people have become ill and there may be as many as 11 deaths.  ABC reporters were right on top of what’s happening, mainly because they participated in the FDA’s teleconference on January 21.  The transcripts of these sessions make interesting reading.  Here’s the take-home:

1.  How did Salmonella get into the peanut butter? They don’t know yet, and it’s a puzzle.  Investigators found traces of Salmonella in the plant, but  not the particular strain found in the peanut butter.

2.  Shouldn’t peanut butter be free of bacteria? Yes, in theory, because the peanuts are roasted (this should be a kill step) and bacteria do not grow well in foods that don’t have much water.  This plant roasted its own peanuts, but it also used peanuts that arrived already roasted.  These could have arrived contaminated or the contamination could have occurred at the plant.

3.  Why are so many products affected? The plant shipped two different kinds of peanut butter: the bulk kind that goes to institutions and a peanut butter ingredient that goes to factories to be turned into other products.  Both contained the particular toxic strain of Salmonella.

4.  Which products  have been found with this toxic strain? The bulk kind and Austin Sandwich Crackers made by Kellogg.  But give Kellogg credit for admirable behavior.  The company recalled its products the minute it heard about the potential problem.  By the time the FDA’s tests came back positive, Kellogg had already recalled the products.  The Kellogg website provides full disclosure.

Jan 18 2009

More on Salmonella in Peanut Butter

I’ve been out of the country for the past week (Panamá, warm and lovely) but have been kept up on the peanut butter outbreak, courtesy of Eric Burkett of Examiner.com.  His posts thoroughly cover events in this latest outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium.  The outbreak is so widespread that the FDA has a special site devoted to it with a useful Q and A.  The FDA warns consumers not to eat any recalled peanut butter or foods made with it (the list is on the FDA site).  Peanut butter in jars seems to be OK, so far.  If you want to see the epidemiology, the CDC has the case-report charts and state maps online.  The lawyers are also getting into the act: Marler Clark is always a source of information about actionable foodborne illnesses, and O’Steen & Harrison also seems to be keeping close track. At issue is where the contamination occurred, where the contaminated peanut butter was distributed, and what other food companies are using this peanut butter.  That this information is not readily available is further evidence of the need for better food safety requirements, oversight, and traceability.  Let’s hope the new administration takes this on, and soon. And until it does, best to grind your own peanuts!

Update January 19: Just ran across this article on how Salmonella gets into peanut butter in the first place.  The usual way: animal feces.  Roasting the peanuts should kill Salmonella, so the contamination must have occurred later.  Did the factory have a HACCP plan in place?  If so, they must not have been paying much attention to it.

Update January 20: Add Cliff and Luna bars to the list.

Jan 10 2009

Would you believe peanut butter?

So this big outbreak of Salmonella that has sickened 400 people throughout the country has finally been traced to – peanut butter.  Not just any old peanut butter, but the kind that is sold in huge containers to institutions.    How did Salmonella get into peanut butter?  Either the production lines were washed with sewage-contaminated water or somebody’s hands were really dirty. This is another example of the reason why we must, must, must do something to improve food safety oversight, starting with requiring all food producers – without exception – to use standard food safety procedures and to be subject to inspection to make sure they follow those procedures.

And the maker of the peanut butter, King Nut, has issued a recall.

January 14 update: The FDA posts the recall notice.

Oct 27 2007

ConAgra’s Peanut Butter Recall: the story

CIO, the magazine for corporate Chief Information Officers, has an interesting report on this year’s recall of Peter Pan peanut butter. It’s written from the standpoint of company data managers, the folks responsible for setting up tracking systems for product recalls. Fine, but what about food safety systems?

Oct 18 2007

More on the military food service scandal

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times ran stories today about the deepening scandal over graft and corruption in Iraq food service. The Journal article comes with a nifty illustration of the chain of companies involved in supplying peanut butter, calzones, and frozen French fries to the troops, easily explaining where there might be plenty of room for kickbacks. According to the Times, the key company under investigation, Public Warehousing, was paid a billion dollars by the military for its part in the chain. Expensive calories, those.