It has been a rough month for the peanut butter industry. A recent peanut butter-salmonella outbreak has sickened over 600 people and killed 9 others. According to the Wall Street Journal, the overall peanut butter industry has seen sales drop by 25% but the cause of the outbreak has been traced to one culprit: Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Since the link between the outbreak and PCA was discovered, PCA’s plants have shut down, it is facing several civil lawsuits, and is currently filing for bankruptcy protection. The CEO of the company, Stewart Parnell, was taken for questioning on Capitol Hill, but pleaded the Fifth Amendment so not to incriminate himself. A criminal investigation is likely to follow. As the Journal points out, regulators share some of the blame in this outbreak. According to the Washington Post, food regulators did not even know PCA’s plant in Plainview, Texas existed until after the outbreak!
With the recent salmonella outbreak in peanut butter products injuring many consumers and killing at least eight, Congress is considering tightening regulations in the food industry. According to a press release from the American Association for Justice, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) is working to update the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He introduced the FDA Globalization Act on January 28, 2009 in hopes to guarantee the safety of America’s food, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices and restore consumer confidence. Rep. Dingell’s bill would increase inspections of manufacturing facilities, raise penalties for not adhering to standards, and would give the FDA more authority to recall any products believed to pose threats to citizens.