Thursday, February 19, 2009

Contaminated Nuts

How nutty can it get? More than five hundred people in 43 states and one Canadian province have gotten food poisoning, and eight have died from salmonella contaminated peanut snacks. You’d think that it could not be worse. However, it turns out that the company was aware of the contamination prior to shipment of peanut butter products, including packs of crackers, snack bars, and dog biscuits to convenience stores, hospitals, nursing homes, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture school lunch program.

The company involved released a statement saying: “We at Peanut Corporation of America express our deepest and most sincere empathy for those sickened in the salmonella outbreak and their families. We share the public’s concern about the potential connection to Peanut Corp. of America’s products. Our top priority has been — and will continue to be — to ensure the public safety and to work promptly to remove all potentially contaminated products out of the marketplace.”

The salmonella was traced to the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Ga., which calls itself the Peanut Capital of the World, and the town square displays a peanut sculpture monument in case you don’t think peanuts are serious business. Almost half of all the peanuts in the United States come from Georgia, about two billion pounds last year produced in the counties of Worth, Mitchell, Miller, Decatur, and Early. Blakely is in Early County, along the Alabama border, south of Columbus, west of Albany, which real Georgians know is not pronounced like the capital of New York State.

When the salmonella hit the fan, the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely shut down, and its 50 workers were laid off. Whistles are being blown about poor sanitation practices and non-existent training. Workers can kiss those jobs goodbye. Maybe Georgia Obstructionist Party legislators in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., will become born again bailout boosters for peanuts. Or the peanut workers can get retrained as computer nuts.

The president of the Peanut Corp. of America, Stewart Parnell, serves on the USDA’s Peanut Standards Board, which advises the secretary of the USDA on “standards intended to assure that satisfactory quality and wholesome peanuts are used in the domestic and import peanut markets,” according to the USDA.

Now the Peanut Corporation of America has declared bankruptcy, and the Hartford Insurance Company, policy carrier for PCA, claims prior knowledge of the contamination invalidates the insurance coverage. Don’t bother to sue anybody, even if you are not dead.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it is working with the Department of Justice on a criminal investigation of the Peanut Corp. of America. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation also is looking into whether the company may have broken any state laws. The FBI has carried off files and other evidence from the Blakely plant. PCA president Parnell, called to testify before Congress, took The Fifth, just like a mobster or former White House advisor.

Eventually, one of these cases of shameless and outrageous business practices that threaten public health and safety, ruin the economy, and violate the law will send somebody to jail. The sooner the better for these nuts.

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter


Tina said...

As we would say in my part of the woods, this whole situation reeks of pure sorriness. No excuses are sufficient for dirty food handling.

Newmanic Tribe said...

no pun intended at all - it is sickening to think that they have to wonder if a crime has been committed ? I saw on a news blip that on many occasions bad bathes were sen out knowingly....dirty pool old man!Hello bill , keep em' coming, I enjoy them. Adam Newman

pat cassady said...

Bill, I just want to know if you're still enjoying your after-supper snack---graham crackers with peanut butter. Pat

Paw Paw Bill said...

So far, my jars of peanut butter from the grocery store are not on the recall list. Much of the contaminated peanut products went to those under the protection and custody of others, the elderly, children, and family pets through shipments to hospitals, nursing homes, the school lunch program, and via dog biscuits.

annette cotter said...

Found a peanut
Found a peanut
Found a peanut just now...

It was rotten
It was rotten
It was rotten just now...

Ate it anyway
Ate it anyway
Ate it anyway just now

....and etc....

luther said...

I have never been able to make sense of banking, stock markets, or mortgages, but even I can understand poisoned peanuts.

tommy said...

Ha - I still pronounce Albany the same as the state capitol of New York! I guess that still gives me away as a foreigner!

Paw Paw Bill said...

My best advice is stick close to the Interstate. Don't wander into town in All-Bennie or Vy-eena, and avoid House-ton County, if at all possible.

Anonymous said...

Nuts can drive me nuts. We think that the world already has enough contamination and polution. We will continue to aware people at our school and in our community of this nut problem.


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