I Went Vegan After Salmonella in Peanut Butter Recall
During the peanut butter salmonella recall in early 2009, we all learned to fear the peanuts, and what we need to learn to fear is the factory farm and the general state of the food industry. The USDA needs to find more inspectors so that the factories have greater incentive to follow the regulations that can keep our society members safe from illness.
It's not the peanuts, or the tomatoes, or the jalapenos or the spinach; it's the state of our food industry!
I'm sure we've all heard about the peanut butter salmonella scare in early January and February 2009; 500 people became sick and seven diedfrom salmonella poisoning linked back to a peanut factory.
The guilty Blakely, GA plant is owned by the Peanut Corporation of America, of Lynchburg, VA. In response to the illnesses, the plant recalled all products ever produced at the facility, filed for bankruptcy, and then subsequently closed down.
At the plant, there were roaches, mold, a leaking roof, feathers and feces over food prep areas, and other completely disgusting things. There are reports from an ex-worker at the plant that he saw rats in the roaster that were then blended in with the peanuts, and he often saw rat droppings in the food prep area.
In addition, even after the plant knew their products had salmonella, theykept shipping food to the consumers.
And, this salmonella outbreak wasn't even the first on record for the factory. On twelve separate occasions, the plant had been found to have the bacteria in its products, but they never cleaned up the production lines.
In 2006 and 2007, the Agriculture Department repeatedly found that same plant to be in violation of cleanliness standards. There were gaps in the doors large enough for rodents to enter, rusty equipment near food areas, unmarked spray bottles, open peanut butter containers, and other unclean surfaces.
The sad thing is that this plant is not the exception to the rule, but rather an example of how poorly regulated our food industry is.
When it comes to slaughterhouses and animal agriculture facilities, there are so many facilities and so few inspectors that many of them are very infrequently visited. When they are visited for inspection, the inspection simply can't cover the entire enormous farm, so it's a cursory check.
This particular company suffered a loss of one plant, but in the grand scheme of things, because they filed for bankruptcy, it's not a huge punishment. The company has many other plants and losing one is ofteneasier and cheaper than improving the quality of its facilities.
What can we do?
Keep being outraged. Keep talking about this, keep reading about it, and keep telling people about it. Though negative word of mouth may make only a small dent, you may also ignite more outrage and eventually make a difference.
Think about writing a letter to the USDA and FDA asking that more inspectors be ordered onto food production facilities, and slaughterhouses.
Consider buying locally made foods from smaller production facilities.
In the case of peanut butter, you could make your own by buying shelled peanuts, shelling them, and grinding them with a good quality blender. It does seem like a drastic and inconvenient change to make, but it should prevent you from contracting salmonella.
Let's hope we aren't going to face another peanut butter salmonella outbreak anytime soon.