In the wake of a salmonella outbreak in peanut products from the now bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), which, according the CDC, sickened at least 683 people and killed 9, the FDA issued safety guidelines this week to all companies using peanut products. It said that it may begin to seize whose products which test positive for salmonella bacteria.
The FDA advises that although salmonella bacteria are generally heat-sensitive, they can become heat-resistant in high-fat environments such as peanut butter. Salmonella can also survive in products like peanut butter or peanut paste when the peanuts used to make them are not roasted properly. Baking peanut butter into cookies and crackers can be insufficient to kill the bacteria if the temperature is too low, or is not kept constant. And products like ice cream, which are both frozen and high in fat, actually protect salmonella bacteria.
In light of these facts, the FDA is urging food manufacturers to buy peanut products “only from suppliers with validated processes in place to adequately reduce the presence of Salmonella species.” It’s also urging companies to check for salmonella in the products they manufacture.
We have to ask ourselves: why only now is the FDA recommending that manufacturers pay attention to where their products come from and whether or not they’re tainted with life-threatening bacteria? They should have been doing this already. We trust them (with our lives—literally) to do it. Because they did not, a total of 3,235 products have been recalled, and a full two months after the discovery of salmonella in PCA’s products, consumers are still reporting serious illness from salmonella complications. It’s unconscionable that it should take these kinds of events for the FDA to “urge” companies to take responsibility for the safety of their products.