At a time when peanut growers need it the least up pops another food-borne disease problem aimed at peanuts. Products made by Peanut Corporation, Parnell's Pride and King Nut, were recalled by King Nut Companies. Those products were sold to nursing homes, schools, hospitals, and bakeries, the FDA said.
The basis for the recall was that an open container of King Nut brand peanut butter in a long-term care facility in Minnesota was found to contain a strain of salmonella that has caused sickness in a number of people in 43 states.
The container of peanut butter was left open — no one knows for how long. Would a container of most any food product left open for long periods of time contain salmonella, e.coli, campylobacter or some other source of food-borne disease? The FDA admits — in their press release that NONE of the peanut butter was sold directly to consumers through retail stores. Yet the recall of peanut products by retail stores across America is well under way.
It seems no one is listening to the FDA, maybe it’s not even listening to itself: “Federal health authorities on Saturday urged consumers to avoid eating cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods that contain peanut butter until authorities can learn more about a deadly outbreak of salmonella contamination.”
In the same press release Stephen Sundlof, head of the Food and Drug Administration's food safety center said, "As of now, there is no indication that the major national name-brand jars of peanut butter sold in retails stores are linked to the recall,"
If there is no indication that peanut butter sold in retail stores is affected, why add the following statement? “Most peanut butter sold in jars at supermarkets appears to be safe,” Sundolf said. As far as we know ALL the peanut butter sold in grocery stores is safe.
Killer peanut is big news, safe peanuts and peanut products are not. When all the facts are in and the scope of the food-borne sickness and its relationship to peanuts is well-documented, it won’t be news. That peanuts and peanut products are once again safe to eat, won’t be conveyed to consumers.
Truth is, peanut butter is safe now. I have a jar of Winn-Dixie brand crunchy, and I have no reservation about putting some on a couple of soda crackers and eating it. Of course I didn’t leave my jar of peanut butter open.
As in the tomato scare last summer, products are being pulled off the market, unsubstantiated information is being sent out by the national media and the brunt of the attack will unfortunately fall upon farmers — most of them in the Southeastern U.S. In the summer of 2008 the national media — from the tabloids to network television — were trying to find the source of ‘killer tomatoes’.
Understanding the risk by Federal agencies and explaining the risk by the national media didn’t happen. Finding the ‘killer tomato’ didn’t happen either.
Even after government agencies, including the Center for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration supplied verifiable proof that peppers, not tomatoes, were the cause of the outbreak, tomato growers in the Southeast continued to suffer from this misguided concern for public health.
Having been a one-time victim of campylobacter and salmonella food poisoning, I don’t wish that kind of sickness on anyone. However, a little common sense by federal, state and local regulatory agencies and the media that covers these organizations could avoid causing unnecessary problems for people who just simply don’t need it right now. Peanut farmers have the high cost of inputs, the continued uncertainties — as of late January — about contract prices for their crop, not to mention weed resistance and a plethora of production problems.
The public and the public’s media just can’t seem to grasp the concept that peanuts are not a health risk to anyone other than a few people with true allergies to peanuts — and most nut products. Mishandling of peanuts and peanuts products, like most food products, is a risk.
By comparison, an airplane crashed recently in the Hudson River, yet there is no hysteria by Americans, media, or the Federal Aeronautical Association to recall airplanes or stop flying. Instead of creating a hysteric reaction to flying, the extraordinary actions of U.S. Airways Pilot Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger made most passengers feel more comfortable flying. The well-deserved hero status, it seems, overshadows the natural hazards of flying in an airplane.
There are risks to flying and there are risks to eating. There are risks simply to living. Airline travel is safe, so is eating peanuts and peanut products. Statistically eating peanuts is safer than flying — depending on whose statistics you use.
Peanut growers don’t want the hero status being heaped on Captain Sullenberger. Peanut growers would just like to be treated fairly.
At a time when growers are waiting to get peanut contracts and hoping for something comparable to 2008 prices, the outbreak of a peanut-caused disease panic is exactly what they don’t need.
Peanut growers take extreme caution against growing and selling peanuts that contain anti-toxins that can cause sickness and death. Shellers, processors and on up through the food chain take similar precautions against putting any peanut product on the market that in any way creates a risk to humans.
No matter how safe peanuts are when they go from the grower to the sheller and on to processor and end manufacturer, peanuts will never be 100 percent safe for human consumption. Neither will poultry, beef, fruits, vegetables, nor any other food source.