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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The USDA does have its hands in the peanut jar

In yet another indicator of the confusion of who is in charge over what food – FDA or USDA – Local, State or Federal Regulators, "tip o’ the pen to" Bob Keefe for his story today – Troubled peanut firm’s chief also an industry quality adviser – in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  According to Mr. Keefe:

The president of the peanut company linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak serves on an industry advisory board that helps the U.S. Department of Agriculture set quality standards for peanuts. Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corp. of America, based in Lynchburg, Va., was first appointed to the USDA’s Peanut Standards Board in July 2005 and was reappointed in October for a second term that runs until June 2011….

In a Press Release from 2002, the USDA announced that it was moving “to implement a new peanut quality program as outlined in the new Farm Bill.”  This included that “all peanuts marketed in the United States must be officially inspected and graded by federal inspectors or federally licensed state inspectors.  Imported peanuts will be subject to the same quality and handling standards as domestically produced peanuts.  The new Farm Bill … requires [the] USDA to appoint a new Peanut Standards Board comprised of members of the peanut industry. [The] USDA will consult with the board before establishing or changing quality and handling standards for domestically produced and imported peanuts."

I wonder what input Mr. Parnell had on “quality and handling standards?”

  • Reader

    Regarding the call to have more inspectors…that is great, but how will it help until the laws are changed? The inspectors cannot access industry records in a timely manner because of obstacles such as what information is proprietary…forbid they release something that might interfere with a business’ ability to compete (whether it is peanuts, spinach, beef). Information gathering during inspections and investigations is blocked by industry’s protection against competitors. Plus, these plants further impede investigators by giving them “hard copies” instead of electronic records…more time and data entry/analysis by regulators. What good is more inspectors, when the system is set-up to prevent them from gathering information? Also, there is no lab capacity – even if lawmakers fund more inspectors, who is going to test all those samples (or improve the outdated methods and sampling stragegies)?

  • Homer W.

    Tainted pet food, leafy greens, infant formula, beef, peanuts . . .
    Nothing will change until folks go to jail.