FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 16, 2009
Peanut safety scare raises wider concerns about our food
What we eat is a subject that fits various sections, including local news, lifestyle business and even science. Look for peanut-related reports beyond the main news pages.
This issue brings coverage of how foods are processed, how plants are inspected and how peanuts from Georgia go around the world. Find an article that teaches you anything about the food industry.
Newspaper readers routinely see consumer safety alerts for products as large as cars and as small as toys. Do you remember any? What advantages do daily papers have over other media to spread this type of information?
Holes in America's food safety net are drawing high-level federal attention as the result of a worldwide recall of snack bars, crackers, frozen dinners, military meals and hundreds of other items made with processed peanuts or peanut butter. At least nine deaths are linked to an unsanitary plant in Georgia, ground zero in a food illness outbreak that has swept across North America since January and sickened an estimated 20,000 people - half of them children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accuses the Peanut Corporation of America of repeatedly shipping products it knew were contaminated by dangerous bacteria called salmonella -- pronounced SALL-MOHN-ella. The firm's president declined to testify at a congressional hearing last week to avoid providing evidence that could be used against him in a criminal case.
The peanut outbreak is the latest in a series of incidents involving lettuce, beef, peppers and spinach that have eroded confidence in food safety and brought calls to strengthen the FDA. It currently can't order recalls of contaminated food, for instance. And despite the food industry's growth, agency inspections have declined. President Obama vows a full review of FDA operations.
Health official says: "It's easy to fall into the trap of seeing our food safety problems as coming from other countries. This outbreak is telling us we haven't been paying enough attention." - Robert Tauxe, federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Newspaper says: "Congress needs to give the agency [FDA] the authority it needs to exert more oversight of food manufacturers' internal controls. . . It has become painfully obvious the FDA doesn't have the resources, authority or inspectors to do a thorough job of protecting the nation's food supply." - Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press editorial
Marketing executive says: "These things kind of spook consumers. It is undermining consumer confidence in the food supply." - Bob Goldin of Technomic, a food industry consulting firm
Front Page Talking Points Archive