News Briefs

 
 
In Brief:
 

• FDA finds PCA shipped product known to contain salmonella.

• APC works round-the-clock on salmonella crisis; assures consumers most manufacturers use Good Management Practices.

• NPB coordinates interviews with growers for that angle of the recall story.

• Georgia Peanut Commission has to recall cans of peanuts.

• Fire destroys peanut warehouse in Georgia.

• USDA and NASS to conduct survey on economic picture of family farm.

• No counter-cyclical payment for
peanuts.

• Texas producer board partners with Jif and New York Apple for grocery store promoton.

• Finally, a MoonPie with peanut butter. Chatanooga Bakery introduces new product asked for by consumers.

   

FDA Undertakes Largest Recall Ever
A combination of epidemiological analysis and laboratory testing by state officials in Minnesota and Connecticut, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) enabled the FDA to confirm that the sources of the outbreak of illnesses caused by salmonella Typhimurium are peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) at its Blakely, Ga., processing plant.

Peanut butter is sold by PCA in bulk containers ranging in size from five to 1,700 pounds. The peanut paste is sold in sizes ranging from 35-pound containers to product sold by the tanker container. Neither of these products is sold directly to consumers.

FDA has determined that PCA distributed potentially contaminated product to more than 100 consignee firms, for use as an ingredient in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream.

FDA initiated an inspection of PCA’s Blakely plant on Jan. 9, 2009, shortly after learning that this firm might be linked to the ongoing salmonella outbreak. The deficiencies observed indicate that the plant was not compliant with current Good Manufacturing Practices required by the FDA. These deficiencies are related to cleaning programs and procedures as well as failure to implement steps to mitigate salmonella contamination in the facility.

On Jan. 28, PCA issued an expanded voluntary recall of all peanuts and peanut products processed in its Blakely facility since Jan. 1, 2007. The expanded recall includes all peanuts (dry and oil roasted), granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter and peanut paste. All of the recalled peanuts and peanut products were made only at the company’s Blakely facility.

On Jan. 30, FDA confirmed that their Office of Criminal Investigations is involved in a Justice Department investigation of PCA. FDA has been working with the company and purchasers of PCA’s peanut butter and peanut paste to identify affected products and facilitate their removal from the market. FDA and state officials have visited in excess of 1,000 firms who purchased PCA products.

Companies nationwide that received product made by PCA have issued voluntary recalls of their products. Product recalls include some pet food products that contain peanut paste made by PCA. While the risk of animals contracting salmonellosis is minimal, there is risk to humans from handling these products.

National brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores are not affected by the PCA recall.


APC Works Tirelessly On Recall Issue
Since the news of peanut butter being tainted with salmonella first broke, the American Peanut Council and their crisis management team have worked tirelessly to provide factual information to the media and consumers, to make certain FDA provides factual information as well and to keep the industry informed about the whole recall process. Their work has resulted in the APC being quoted and referred to in countless news stories as a source of credible information regarding the recall and peanut butter, in general.

The APC has also helped U.S. peanut processors communicate with their customers and inform consumers about the safety of their products. They have been in constant communication with FDA and have repeatedly stressed the importance of reassuring consumers that national retail peanut butter brands are not affected by the recall. Because of the APC’s efforts, the FDA updated their statement and advice to consumers on the FDA Web site to make it clear that the national retail brands of peanut butter in jars are not affected.

“This is obviously a very challenging time, but we are making strong efforts on your behalf,” says Patrick Archer, APC executive director in a statement to the industry. “We will continue to strive to inform the media about the integrity of our industry and stress that most products are not affected, especially retail peanut butter in grocery stores.”

The APC continues to monitor the situation and communicate daily with members.


NPB At Work During Recall
The National Peanut Board (NPB) is working on behalf of America’s peanut producers to minimize the impact on demand for USA-grown peanuts and to protect grower investment in the marketing, advertising and research programs of NPB and the gains achieved through the national check-off.

Reaching out to key retail, culinary and foodservice partners and contacts created over the years, NPB is helping to keep products on store shelves and restaurant menus by educating decision makers about the facts of the salmonella outbreak and food recall.

Through media relations, NPB is correcting misinformation about salmonella and the recall and arranging media interviews with growers so the public can hear first hand from farmers about the implications this serious situation could have on demand for peanuts. During interviews, growers remain positive and reinforce important messages about the industry’s commitment to food safety beginning on the farm. So far, NPB has facilitated nearly a dozen grower interviews.

The NPB is also busy online, providing consumers with accurate information on nationalpeanutboard.org. People can access facts about food safety and the peanut industry, salmonella and a continuously updated list of peanut products not affected by the recall. The NPB is also reaching out to bloggers to set the record straight on the salmonella outbreak and food recall.

The NPB is working with the American Peanut Council to ensure journalists understand that retail peanut butter and many other peanut products are not affected by the recall.

GPC Expresses Disappointment In PCA
The Georgia Peanut Commission expressed disdain for the actions of the Peanut Corporation of America after viewing the findings released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA reports PCA knowingly released a product with potential salmonella contamination into the food supply.

“We are dealing with a small manufacturer who was a bad actor in a good industry,” says Don Koehler, GPC executive director. “Because of this, farmers are having a difficult time obtaining peanut contracts for 2009, consumers are confused and the ripple effect is being felt throughout the peanut industry. This is unconscionable.”

When the recall was expanded, the commission had to recall cans of skinless and honey roasted peanut product that were manufactured at that facility. The can includes the words, “Packed by Peanut Corporation of America, Blakely, GA 31723.” The canned peanut product was distributed from the Georgia Peanut Commission Gift Shop in Tifton, and the recall is for the following: Georgia Peanuts Skinless Roasted (11 oz.); Georgia Peanuts Honey Roasted (11 oz.); Georgia Peanuts Skinless Roasted (4 lbs.); Georgia Peanuts Honey Roasted (4 lbs).

The Georgia Peanut Commission will continue to monitor the salmonella recall and work closely with the American Peanut Council, FDA, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Congress to work towards a solution.

 
Economic Survey Planned
USDA and the National Agricultural Statistics Service will conduct a survey of farmers called the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). ARMS is the primary source of information on production practices, resource use and the economic well-being of farmers and farm families. The information is used by Congress, USDA, policymakers, organizations and others who need and use agricultural information. Over 1,400 farmers will be surveyed before the end of March. Farmers should take time to help USDA get accurate information on what is really happening down on the family farm.

 
Fire Destroys Georgia Warehouse
A raging fire, fueled by dry peanuts and high winds, destroyed a peanut warehouse in Sylvester, Ga., in January along with the old Houston Peanut Company shelling plant that has not operated for years.

Donnie Ford of Farm Commodities, a buying point for Birdsong Peanuts, said the warehouse contained about 2,300 tons, and the warehouse was the old wooden framed storage facility.

The fire was ruled an accident, ignited by a spark left unattended by a welder that had been working at the facility. The loss was estimated at $3.5 million – $2 million in structural damage and $1.5 million for the 2,300 tons of farmer-stock peanuts. Ford said the plan thus far is to rebuild.


No Counter-Cyclical Payment
No partial counter-cyclical payment will be issued for 2008 peanuts because market prices were above levels that would trigger the payment. A CCP will be considered again in August after all 2008 peanuts are sold.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service average price received by farmers for peanuts was reported at about $420 per ton average. However, the industry was reporting contracts at $500 per ton for runners and about $600 per ton for Virginias. Loan volumes and forfeitures could bring the average lower before the final CCP is announced.

No partial CCP was issued for wheat, barley, oats, rice, corn, grain sorghum or soybeans. Cotton base owners will receive the maximum CCP of 12.58 cents per pound, but only 40 percent in February or 5.03 cents per pound.


TPPB Partners With Jif, New York Apple
For three days in late January and early February, the Texas Peanut Producers Board partnered with Jif and New York Apple to promote the healthy benefits of peanut butter and fresh fruit.

The sampling took place in the top 100 performing H-E-B grocery store locations in Texas, and promoters used the samplings to educate consumers about the convenience, portability and nutritional benefits of peanut butter snacks when paired with fruit.

Officials also hope to use the samplings to target Hispanic consumers and encourage healthy snacking through peanut butter and fruit. Peanut butter has proven to be a good food source to reduce the risk of diabetes, and Hispanics are among those at the highest risk for the disease, according to the National Diabetes Education Program.


Webb Named Outstanding Young Farmer
At the Georgia Peanut Farm Show in January, the Georgia Peanut Commission unveiled a new award – the Outstanding Georgia Young Peanut Farmer. The award is based on their overall farm operation; environmental and stewardship practices; leadership and community service. The 2009 award went to Jimmy Webb, Leary, Ga.

Webb started farming when he returned from college in 1986 with 75 acres each of peanuts and cotton. Today, the farming operation encompass 2,800 acres with 900 acres of peanuts. He is a three-time district winner and state winner in the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club and the 2005 Lancaster Sunbelt Expo Georgia Farmer of the Year.

The GPC also presented awards for the following: Distinguished Service - Birdsong Peanuts; Research and Education - Roy Pittman, USDA-ARS agronomist, and Jim Todd, UGA professor emeritus of entomology; Media - Southeast Ag Net and a Special Award - Jimmy Lee, retired from Georgia Farm Bureau.


Chattanooga Bakery Launches MoonPie Peanut Butter
Here’s some good news. Chattanooga Bakery, Inc., maker of the iconic MoonPie brand marshmallow sandwich, has introduced MoonPie Peanut Butter, its newest and most unique new product in decades. Sized like today’s “Mini” MoonPie, the product touts a creamy peanut butter filling, a crunchier, chocolate-flavored cookie and a chocolatey coating on the outside.

The marshmallow-filled MoonPie cookie sandwich has been around for almost a century. The iconic brand has been saluted in songs, books and movies and was even the centerpiece of this year’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Mobile, Ala.

“We’re really excited to be launching some truly new and different items under the proven MoonPie trademark,” said Tory Johnston, vice president of marketing. “For more than 90 years, we’ve stayed true to our original design – soft cookies with marshmallow filling. After extensive research, consumers seemed excited to try new items from us – peanut butter is the first, and there are several other new ideas in research and development now.”

MoonPie Peanut Butter is currently available in a variety of packages, including the eight count multi-pack carton and a twin pack for single-serve usage.

In announcing the new product, the company also made a statement to assure its consumers that the product was safe and the salmonella contamination did not include the supplier of the peanut butter used in their new item.

Chattanooga Bakery was founded in 1902 as a subsidiary of the Mountain City Flour Mill. A fourth generation, family-owned business, the company made nearly 100 snack cake and cookie items under the Lookout trademark, named after Lookout Mountain, the popular tourist community near Chattanooga. In 1917, after a brainstorming conversation between a bakery salesman and some Appalachian coal miners, the MoonPie was born, and by the late 1930s, it was the bakery’s number one seller, a spot it still occupies today.