1 Year After PCA Peanut Butter Outbreak- What has changed?


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By Consumers Union on Thursday, January 14th, 2010

It is almost one year to the day since The Kellogg Company put a hold on two popular brands of peanut butter crackers because of potential Salmonella contamination. The outbreak which sickened hundreds and caused the deaths of nine people, was ultimately traced to Peanut Corporation of America, who, according to Congressional testimony, knowingly shipped peanut products that has tested positive for Salmonella.

Twenty-seven victims and families of those who were sickened and in some cases died sent a letter calling on congressional lawmakers to keep their promise to implement food-safety reform.

The victims who fell ill as a result of contaminated peanut products are seeking a Senate floor vote on S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act,  that would boost Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority and help limit future outbreaks. These victims have been advocating relentlessly for a overhaul of the food safety system. One of the most outspoken has been Peter Hurley, a Seattle police officer and a CU activist, whose red-headed three-year-old son Jacob became extremely ill as a result of Salmonella from peanut butter.

Jill Summers, the mother of Makayla Stephens, a victim from Quapaw, Oklahoma, says:

Americans cannot afford to wait for another outbreak for Congress to pass food safety legislation that protects families from facing the same hardships we have faced. It took over a month after Makayla first got sick for there to even be a recall on the products. No one in America should have to worry whether the food they eat and feed their families will make them sick.

The letter from the victims and family members, who are from 22 states, notes the need for a strong, comprehensive food-safety reform law.  President Barack Obama and leaders from both parties in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have called for action on food safety.  According to a poll commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts, nine out of 10 Americans favor legislation to strengthen food-safety laws.

The bills in Congress, which would require FDA to inspect high-risk facilities at least annually, require that food processors establish food safety plans, and grant FDA mandatory recall authority, would shift the agency’s regulatory approach from reaction to prevention.  Had these provisions been in place before the peanut product outbreak,  FDA would likely have been inspecting the plant on a regular basis and should have discovered and required remediation of some of the unsanitary conditions at the plant that were all too apparent after the incident, such as a leaky roof, rodent droppings and unclean surfaces.

The House passed a strong food-safety bill (H.R. 2749) last July by a wide majority and to great acclaim from both parties.  Consumer, public health, and victim advocacy groups, as well as food industry trade associations, strongly supported the bill.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee approved a bipartisan bill (S. 510) in November 2009. The victims and their families are urging congressional lawmakers to contact Senate leadership and ask that S. 510 be scheduled for a floor vote, finalized by a conference committee, and presented to the president for signature before Valentine’s Day, February 14. Click here to help pass this bill.

To learn more go to NotInMyFood.org

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