Monday, April 27, 2009

Regulators, manufacturers, blew it on peanut safety

The widespread contamination of peanuts all linked to a singled processor, Peanut Corp. of America, is perhaps the most dramatic proof yet that our current methods for ensuring food safety are perilously flawed. My former colleague Julie Schmit has done an outstanding article documenting the many missed opportunities to catch hazards at PCA. There is plenty of blame to go around: it was not only federal and state regulators who blew it, but also the manufacturers, like Kellogg's, who purchased products from PCA. Interesting to note that Nestle did its own inspections and stopped using PCA years ago, according to Schmit's reporting.

The outbreak sickened more than 700 people, may have contributed to nine deaths, and cost the food industry millions from the recall of more than 3,600 products. With evidence of health hazards at a PCA plant in 2001, one has to wonder why nobody did anything until after all these people were hurt.

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