Saturday, January 31, 2009

Who’s in charge here?

Since the beginning of the present salmonella outbreak, I’ve been bringing you news on it. I’ve provided you with links to information on the outbreak. I’ve provided you with lists of recalled products. I’ve done this for two reasons. One, it’s important. And two, I’m mad.

My anger has tripled this morning. Maybe even quadrupled. I’m pretty mad. If you were someone that saw me in person, you would probably turn around and move away from me as fast as possible once you saw the look on my face. I’m truly that angry today.

Reading my morning news stories I came across yet another story on the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA). Imagine that. The story said that federal health officials have now officially opened a criminal investigation of the plant. Yesterday. Well, it’s about time.

I’m not just mad at the PCA. I’m also mad at the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). It has now been revealed that the FDA hasn’t been to the Blakely Georgia plant since 2001. Yes, I am aware that it’s presently 2009. Maybe now you see what my anger is based on.

To make matters worse, the FDA did not go into the plant because of the salmonella. They went because a shipment of peanuts that originated at the PCA plant were stopped and refused at the Canadian border because it contained metal shavings. That’s when they thought they might need to go into the plant. Don’t worry that it’s been 8 years since any federal inspectors were in the plant. The PCA had their own inspectors, they should be fine. No need to worry about them. Yeah, right.

Then when the FDA finally did go into the plant they didn’t check for anything except metal. No check for salmonella. Why would they worry about that? It’s not like there was JUST ANOTHER CASE OF PEANUT BUTTER SALMONELLA POISONING A COUPLE YEARS AGO. That doesn’t matter.

My main problem is why did the FDA allow a company that sold food products for the general public’s consumption to use their own inspectors? Why didn’t they insist on making regular inspections? I worked in restaurants for 25 years and I can’t tell you how many health inspectors I saw. They popped in unannounced and checked everything under the roof at least once every month. All those individual restaurants were feeding was whatever town I happened to be living in at the time. We weren’t shipping food out all over the country. But we had to meet certain standards and if we didn’t we were closed immediately and not allowed to reopen until the problem was fixed. How was this plant that now has over 430 products on the recall list allowed to continue producing those products and worse yet, shipping them out for us to eat? For us to feed to our children.

According to PCA company documents the original lab they hired to test their products found at least 12 cases of salmonella in the plant. PCA then turned around and hired another company that tested the products and found no salmonella so they shipped the products out. I’m sorry but that’s just crap. If the first test was positive, in my mind there is no need for a second test. And by using a different company to ensure a different result makes me think they were acting in a criminal manner.

In a PCA media statement they said “It is because of our commitment to our customers and consumers that PCA has taken extraordinary measures to identify and recall all products that have been identified as presenting a potential risk.”

I think the only thing PCA is committed to is making money. They haven’t taken any extraordinary measures. The only reason they are doing anything now is because people have died. They blatantly sent out products that they had been told were a danger to people. They chose to ignore basic food handling procedures. They didn’t even bother to clean their plant. When FDA inspectors recently visited the plant they found roaches, mold, a leaking roof and “numerous other sanitation problems.” Commitment to our customers. What a joke.

My hope is PCA will now go out of business. I want them to never again produce anything for us to eat. I also hope the people that worked at that plant are thoroughly educated in food safety and any of them that made the decisions as to whether or not sell those contaminated products should receive jail time. What they did was criminal; they should be treated as such.


morrow said...

I dont watch a lot of television or news, but I find it odd that this is not getting more new coverage.

It's sad how many examples you can find when money is more important to companies than peoples health

and also examples of the govt not protecting us.

I understand your anger.

Wendy said...

I always thought it was funny how some people insist on growing their own food and being as self-sustaining as possible. Well, now it doesn't seem that funny anymore!

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