Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Washington Last Week

Last week we had a big week in Washington.

Early in the week the Peanut Foundation reviewed and then funded research projects, many of which are in Georgia.

Wednesday started with my giving testimony to a subcommittee of the House Small Business Committee on the impact of the recent peanut recall on our farmers and industry. I suggested two immediate things they could do; get USDA to set the posted price properly and get USDA to beef up government purchases of peanuts and peanut butter for feeding programs. I pointed out the value of peanut butter for those programs. I also pointed out the economic disaster to our industry if something is not done. For our industry the number could be upward of a billion dollars and the grower impact could be from $225 to $450 million in lost sales. Those numbers came from the National Center for Peanut Competitiveness. They got a lot of attention in the press.

At the same US Peanut growers banded together through their State Checkoff boards, with the peanut shellers joining in and gave 8500 jars of peanut butter to Martha's Table in DC. The peanut butter is used to feed at risk children. Southern Ag Carriers hauled the peanut butter from Albany to Washington for free and Tara Foods (Kroger) discounted the peanut butter heavily. A press conference was held to highlight the value of peanut butter in use at soup kitchens. Everywhere we went we pointed out that jarred peanut butter is totally safe.

The American Peanut Council had a meeting where the outbreak and recall were a large part of the discussion. We studied other groups who had had similar situations and reviewed what we had done as an industry. I was amazed at how similar our situation was to the spinach recall except ours has been far more extensive.

As I look back and see everything that has been done I have to give credit to the experts and their advice. The industry has been responsible in its actions. Had we not been cautious and calculated we might have just done as some wish and sent folks back in the water with the sharks circling, so to speak. Had a bad action on our part caused someone to get ill or die we would have been just as guilty as the PCA. We never approached that. The recall nor the outbreak has yet ended and we cannot force that. It is up to USDA and FDA to indicate that. It amazes me that yesterday we still had products being recalled. Today we will see what CDC reports on the outbreak. I pray for a week when no new illness is reported.

Yesterday Armond and I did interviews with WALB for a story which will run on March 26 on the outbreak and recall. We have to keep telling the story of one bad actor in a good industry.

My best advice to consumers is if you have a question about a product you want to eat call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

No comments: