Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's Nuts

The Peanut Corp., a Lynchburg, VA based company, has a processing plant in Blakely, GA. That plant produces one percent of all the peanut products consumed in the United States. Yet that plant is responsible for a salmonella outbreak that has affected 575 people in 43 states and may have contributed to the deaths of eight people, including a gentleman in MN whose family will testify before Congress today.

That is how delicate the food chain is in America. The state of Georgia had been monitoring this plant since 2007, and had discovered salmonella infestation at that particular plant. Yet and still, tainted products still made it out and everybody was impacted, from FEMA to food banks. This outbreak could be the biggest food recall in history, bigger even than the Chinese tainted milk scandal.

This event hopefully will lead to real reform in food safety for all Americans. The Federal Government has to do a better job in protecting the food chain. While the FBI is investigating the activities of The Peanut Corp. and its officials, I make the contention that it never should get to that point. Our first line of defense against food contamination should be thorough enough to never let a major outbreak like this happen again. Whatever the government decides to do to change the Food and Drug Administration, the main focus should be to make sure that we do a better job, plain and simple.

In one sense I am glad that greed seems to be the underlying factor and not terrorism. However, as a parent, I am terrified that my child could go to school healthy, have a normal day, and then come home, gravely ill, because of something he ate at his school's cafeteria. There are enough things to worry about in this world without worrying about did he eat tainted food at school, or at home for that matter.

Our food consumption should be considered a national security concern. It should be given the priority it needs to effectively protect it. And the responsibility goes beyond the government. Food processors should never cut corners to make a profit. If it is that bad business-wise, I would rather the company go belly up than save a penny. I believe there are at least 575 people, and their families, that would agree with me on that point.