Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Peanut Recall Up Close and Personal

Last Wednesday night (a week ago) I studied the FDA report on the PCA factory in Blakely, Georgia released that afternoon while I was in route to Waynesboro for a growers meeting. I studied the expanded recall and it became obvious to me that the Peanut Commission with the expanded recall became subject to that portion of the recall. It was on canned peanuts which we last purchased in December of 2007 and which in all likelihood are not even in existence. We still to err on the side of caution have issued a recall.

The actions of what appears to be a bad actor in the peanut industry has been far reaching. I think it was FDA which I saw has classified this the largest food recall in history. It has become the seemingly never ending story.

Today I did an interview with a reporter from National Public Radio and told her what I have repeated time and again to reporters from all across this country. This is not a farmer issue because both roasting and grinding peanut butter reach heats high enough to kill salmonella. Yet my farmers are suffering because we already had carryover from the 2008 crop staring us in the face and now this has made pre-planting contracts virtually non-existent. I also pointed out the fact that our industry has a history of delivering a safe quality product and that there are products all over the supermarket shelves which meet that standard in the face of this confusing issue.

The Peanut Commission along with the American Peanut Council and others in the industry have been very proactive in this situation. After the recall is complete there will be a lot more to be done. We have to re-build consumer confidence in the industry as a whole.

This should demonstrate how fragile our reputation can be and how one bad actor can impact the lives of consumers and thereby the lives of each of us in this industry. I hope that reasonable reform can be made which will not hinder the processing of peanuts but will assure that a bad actor cannot get away with reckless conduct.

We have a lot of work to do.

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