Five months after the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak began, and nearly three weeks after the Minnesota Department of Health “spilled the beans” that tainted peanut butter was the vector, the public still has little idea why nearly 500 became ill with over 125 hospitalized and eight deaths. Now, Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) has shuttered its doors and the town of Blakely, Georgia is reconsidering itself as “Peanut Capital of the World.”
Weeks ago I asked the CDC, FDA and PCA to respond to the following list, however, there still has been limited, or no, response to my “To Do List.”
1. Make sure ALL product is promptly recalled – after a fitful start, the FDA’s website now lists hundreds of products that have been recalled. Companies who do not use PCA’s peanut butter or paste have a competing website listing those products considered safe.
2. PCA should not destroy any documents – despite legal obligations to keep documents, many manufacturing companies believe that “uncomfortable” documents are better shredded.
3. PCA should pay the medical bills and all related expenses of the innocent victims and their families – other than statistics on the CDC website, these sickened people and grieving families deserve to be treated with dignity – they should not have to worry about the financial stress of medical bills and lost wages.
4. PCA should pay the cost of all related Health Department, CDC and FDA investigations – why should taxpayers throughout the United States pay for the cost of investigating one company’s error?
5. The CDC, FDA and PCA must provide all bacterial and viral testing of all PCA peanut butter products – before and after recall.
6. The FDA and PCA must release all inspection reports on the PCA plant by any governmental entity or third-party auditor.
7. PCA must release all bacterial or viral safety precautions taken – especially after the 2007 Salmonella peanut butter outbreak.
8. The CDC, State and Local Health Departments and FDA should release all data behind the Epidemiological investigation (with names redacted), so it is clear who knew what and when about the likely source of the outbreak.
9. The FDA and the Peanut Industry must show the public what is being done now to prevent the next outbreak.
My “To Do List” is in many ways what will eventually come out – months or years from now – after the Congressional Hearings and the protracted litigation – but it will come out. Getting to it now, while the public, the politicians, the regulators and the businesses are still engaged, give us the greatest opportunity to treat the innocents with dignity and to learn from mistakes. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”