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Botulism Recalls Cast Shadow Over Safety of US Food Supply

Aug 6, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

A spat of recent food recalls including Castleberry Food Company’s chili sauce tainted with botulism, Peter Pan peanut butter laced with salmonella and even problems with baby cereal are causing many to question the safety of the US food supply.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prides itself in having the most sanitary standards of any country when it comes to food inspection. Yet in 2007 alone there have been many recalls of basic foods that once could be purchased at local grocery stores or corner delis without fear.
 
This year’s rash of food recalls started in February when thousands of people got Salmonella poisoning from Peter Pan brand peanut butter as well as Great Value (Wal-Mart’s store brand) peanut butter. According to officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it was the first salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter in the US. The recall included all ConAgra-made peanut butter in the US since October 2004.  On April 5, the company stated that they found the source of the contamination. - a leaky roof sprinkler in ConAgra’s Georgia plant. By mid-July the company had announced plans to bring back Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter slowly back to grocery stores.

In June, the popular rice snack Veggie Booty was also recalled because of Salmonella contamination. This snack was often recommended as a “healthy alternative to potato chips.”  Nearly 100 people, most of them children, became sick from the snack food.  The Salmonella contamination was traced to seasoning used on Veggie Booty that had been imported from China.

On July 14, the FDA recalled Gerber Organic Whole Grain Oatmeal cereal because it would not dissolve in water.  Large chunks formed in the cereal posed a chocking hazard to children.  Though Gerber received reports of the problem as early as May, it did not notify the FDA until July.
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In July, Castleberry Foods Company had to recall 90 of their canned products because four people contracted botulism from hot dog chili sauces.  The FDA had problems informing consumers of the recall, and there is some concern that contaminated products still remain in small independently owned stores and convenience stores.  Castleberry said that a malfunction on one of its production lines led to the botulism contamination.

And now the most recent scare came just two days ago involving Lakeside Foods Inc. French Style green beans. There is a chance that they could be tainted with botulism.   The company traced the problem to an equipment operations error, packing too many beans into one can, leaving some beans undercooked.

All these cases coming one  right after another has raised doubts about the US food supply, and the ability of the agencies like the FDA whose job it is to monitor it.  Americans can no longer be confident that the food they purchase at their local grocery story will cause them serious injury.


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