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As Peanut Butter Recall Spreads, Calls for Better Food Safety Accelerate

peanut.jpgThe peanut product recall is growing exponentially, it seems. As of this morning, the recall has been extended to products made from 2007 forward:

…throw out every product made in the past two years from peanuts processed by a Georgia plant at the heart of a deadly nationwide outbreak of salmonella illness.

The action came after federal officials discovered this month that the company, Peanut Corporation of America, knowingly shipped products contaminated with salmonella 12 times in 2007 and 2008, prompting a congresswoman to call yesterday for a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

At this house, we’ve tried to eliminate most foods with high fructose corn syrup, transfats, ingredients we can’t really pronounce, overprocessed and under-nutritious crapola…to the extent possible in a world where Disney Princess gummies are this month’s coveted lunchbox treat. You try and feed your child the healthiest foods you can get them to eat.

But how can you know when the problems are hidden ones? What a nightmare.

The FDA is maintaining a searchable list of recalled products, but maintains that peanut butter sold in the jar and other major-brand products are safe (as far as they know at this point, anyway).

Stop and think for a moment about all the products that can contain peanut butter: ice cream, candies, cakes, frostings, school fundraiser products, dog treats…and you begin to see how far reaching this is.

But it isn’t just peanut butter.

There are serious questions being raised about the safety of imported honey products — used not just as a tea sweetener, but also in a number of cosmetic and bath products and all over the map in baked goods and other products. Want something with corn syrup? It may come with a side of mercury taint.

Should you eat more fish? Depends on where they are caught and what type they are, again due to mercury and other toxic concerns.

Will there be stricter food safety measures enacted in the coming weeks? We’ll see. Given the rising level of public concern, it’s a good bet there will be something enacted. But will it be in the public’s best interest — or industry lobbyists and trade groups? Meanwhile, how did this peanut problem keep going?

The company’s actions "can only be described as reprehensible and criminal," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who oversees Food and Drug Administration funding. "Not only did this company knowingly sell tainted products, it shopped for a laboratory that would provide the acceptable results they were seeking. This behavior represents the worst of our current food safety regulatory system."…

"They tried to hide it so they could sell it," said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin. "Now they’ve caused a mammoth problem that could destroy their company — and it could destroy the peanut industry."

Allowing companies to police themselves does not work. Period. There will always be some greedy SOB who fails to adhere to standards to keep making a quick buck…and it is the public who suffers for it.

Whatever we do in the future, the current voluntary guidelines and inspections of only 10% of food? Not working. For any of us.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com