Food safety advocates are pushing for increased testing at peanut processing plants in the wake of another salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter, The Associated Press is reporting.
The latest outbreak has sickened more than 500 people, including two in Oklahoma.
As health officials scramble to limit the effects of the latest outbreak, food safety advocates have renewed calls for increased testing at peanut processing plants. It’s a costly and time-consuming proposition for an inspection process that, as an Associated Press review of state and federal procedures shows, already suffers from a lack of manpower and transparency, and from uncertainty over how much testing is enough.
Peanut butter had long been considered a relatively low risk for salmonella because roasting the peanuts properly kills the bacteria, and because peanut butter’s low moisture content makes it a less fertile breeding ground for the virus than other foods, such as poultry or lunch meats.
There is no federal law that mandates the number of inspections that must be carried out each year at peanut processing facilities. The Food and Drug Administration contracts with states to perform inspections but allows them broad discretion when it comes to how they do them. The agency asks the states to base the frequency and nature of inspections on how risky a food is considered, giving priority to high-risk foods.
The states, in turn, rely on the companies to police themselves between infrequent visits from state inspectors.
Do you think that’s enough to keep our food supply safe? What would you propose to prevent future outbreaks?