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Paul Kiesel
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FDA: Peanut Butter’s Long Shelf Life a Problem

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The FDA is concerned that the "Peanut Butter Problem" stemming from the unsanitary conditions at Peanut Corp. of America will continue for a while.

"I expect this outbreak to go on for a long time [because the foods with peanut butter in them have long shelf lives]," said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.

Even peanut butter products purchased in early 2007 could be tainted with the salmonella bacteria, which is what the FDA cites as the reason for the current recall and the shutdown of the Georgia-based peanut plant. Peanut Butter products from the plant have accounted for eight deaths and 575 illnesses in 43 states.

The FDA has advised anyone with peanut butter products to check the FDA website’s peanut butter recall page to make sure the product in possession doesn’t have peanut butter that originated from the Georgia plant.

Below is an article from the Los Angeles Times discussing how Peanut Corp. lied to the FDA about its Salmonella testing:

From the L.A. Times:

Peanut Corp. of America, the company that produced the contaminated peanut butter now being widely recalled, lied to Food and Drug Administration investigators about shipping batches of the food known to be tainted with salmonella bacteria, the agency said Friday.

The company had previously told the FDA that some lots of peanut butter had initially tested positive for the bacterium, then were retested and found to be negative before they were shipped. But further investigation showed that the company actually shipped some of the lots before the second tests were completed. Other lots were shipped without testing and, in some cases, no second test was performed even after the first one came back positive. The lots were shipped to a vast array of food manufacturers and found their way into such items as cookies, crackers, health bars, ice cream and dog biscuits. Peanuts and peanut products from a Peanut Corp. plant in Georgia have now been linked to eight deaths and 575 illnesses in 43 states. In January, food companies began what has become an unprecedented nationwide recall of hundreds of snacks and other foods containing the products.

"I expect this outbreak to go on for a long time," in part because the foods have a long shelf life, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington.

The FDA did not formally announce the new findings about the company’s testing, but rather made small revisions Thursday to an online report about the investigation. Only when a Washington Post reporter discovered the changes did the news become more widely known.

As part of the investigation, the FDA found that 12 contaminated lots from the small Blakely, Ga., plant were shipped to schools in California, Minnesota and Iowa from January 2007 to November 2007.

Also, 32 truckloads were shipped to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which had been inspecting the plant, for its school lunch programs.

Susan Acker, a spokeswoman for the USDA, said she did not know of any illnesses linked to the lots shipped to the agency.

Even so, some observers said, the fact that the lots were shipped at all is indicative of reckless business practices [. . .] For the rest of the article, click here.