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I decided to do another peanut butter recall diary because the list of recalled products has grown SIGNIFICANTLY. I promise to continue covering this on my blog as long as the recall keeps growing, so check there often if you're concerned or subscribe to our RSS feed.

I'd also like to bring up the larger context of the problem we're seeing here. One company supplies peanut butter to many, many other companies - which in turn sell products under various brand names. The recall's been growing daily - obviously this convoluted, highly centralized supply chain isn't even straightforward for the companies involved, since they certainly didn't all get on board with their recalls on day one.

The fact of the matter is that this was predicted when a similar food safety crisis occurred with pet food in 2007. In fact, Marion Nestle subtitled her book on the pet food crisis "The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine." I emailed her the other day to say:

I doubt it feels good right now that you can officially tell the country "I told you so."

More below - including the list of recalled products.

UPDATE: A few people are asking "How did this happen?" We don't have the answers 100% yet but I've pulled together what I could find and posted it: Salmonella in Peanut Butter: How did it happen?.

The pet food crisis happened in 2007 in a rather similar way to the current one. One company - Menu Foods - produced food that was sold by many companies under many more brand names. All recalls are voluntary, and the government wouldn't reveal names of any companies they were in contact with over the recall until those companies officially issued recalls. Some companies acted rather responsibly - others didn't.

Marion Nestle documented the pet food crisis in Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua In the Coal Mine, and included a number of recommendations for how to reform the system - recommendations I think it's obvious we should take seriously BEFORE we have another national recall like this one. Seven people have now died from the salmonella outbreak. Should people have to die for eating peanut butter?

(UPDATE from Marion Nestle: Check out her new blog at http://www.foodpolitics.com/ - she's doing fantastic coverage of the peanut butter recall there!)

Here's an excerpt from an interview I did with her:

JR: What was the top reason that allowed the pet food problems to reach the magnitude they did? Was it preventable?

MN: The number one reason is that nobody was paying any attention to food ingredients imported from China. After that, the reasons multiply. Pet food companies had no idea where their ingredients came from. The manufacture of pet foods is complicated, so it is centralized in a few manufacturing facilities that make many different brands. The food supply for pets is so tightly linked to the food supplies for people and farm animals that the food supplies cannot be separated; what affects one, affects all. The FDA has lost so much funding over the last 10 years or so that it can't do its job. And China is an important trading partner as well as an exporter of cheap goods. This is a hugely complicated, interconnected story that I thought was well worth telling.

JR: This summer the FDA was unable to uncover the source of a salmonella outbreak for several months, and even Whole Foods was subject to a recent beef recall due to E. coli. Do your discoveries about pet food translate into dangers for humans too?

MN: Absolutely. Hence Chihuahua in the Coal Mine. Within months, exactly the same thing happened with the drug heparin. Chinese suppliers were using chondroitin sulfate instead of heparin because the test for heparin just looks at sulfate. This is just like using melamine in wheat flour as a substitute for wheat gluten in pet foods (where the test just looks at nitrogen). Both turned out to be lethal. The lesson is that companies must be vigilant about tracking and testing ingredients. It is also clear that we need a better food safety system, one that requires everyone in the food supply, from farm to table, to do the right thing.

The difference in the peanut butter recall from the pet food crisis is, of course, China. In this case the problem was Made in the USA. But the consolidated nature of our food system and our lack of awareness where the ingredients in our food comes from - combined with companies' failure to test for their own products' safety - are shared attributes in both crises.

Marion says:

For many observers, myself among them, the most likely fix is to start from scratch, consolidate food safety functions within a single oversight agency, and give that agency enough legislative, personnel, and financial resources to do its work - p. 145

FYI - Senators Durbin, Casey, Schumer, and Clinton were behind a bill to do just that but the bill never came up for a vote.

The recall list is too big to include here with all of the individual product names as I did before. Instead I am linking to 2 separate updates, but listing brand names here. So skim the brand names, and if you see one you buy, click on the link to see if you have the specific product in question. To go straight to the FDA list, click here

Brands included in my most recent update:

   * ABC Peanut Butter Cookie Dough 3 lb. pails
   * Arbonne
   * Arizona Gold
   * Avanza Supermarket
   * Baker Jo's Peanut Butter
   * Chef Jay's
   * Econofoods (excluding Wisconsin stores in Sturgeon Bay, Clintonville, Marquette, Holton and Iron Mountain)
   * Family Fresh Market
   * Family Thrift Center
   * Food Bonanza
   * Gigi's
   * GNC Triflex
   * Gourmet Cookie Dough
   * Jimmy's Cookies
   * Ovens of Ashley
   * Parker
   * Pick'n Save (Ohio stores in Van Wert and Ironton only)
   * Prairie Market
   * Rain Creek Baking Company
   * Shurfine
   * Sinbad
   * SunMart Foods
   * Trader Joe's
   * Wholesale Food Outlet

Recalled but not on the FDA's list yet:
   * Archer Farms (sold at Target)
   * Sam's Choice (sold at Wal-Mart)
   * Dough-to-Go cookie dough (California)
   * Jane Dough cookie dough (Washington, Nevada, and Arizona)
   * Auntie Ono cookie dough (Hawaii)
   * ShopRite
   * Whole Foods
   * Happy Tails

Brands recalled in previous updates:
   * Austin Quality Foods
   * Best Brands Corp.
   * Blanton's Candies
   * Classic Breaks
   * Cub Foods
   * Dinners Ready
   * Eating Right
   * Evening Rise
   * Grreat Choice (dog biscuits)
   * Health Valley
   * Landies
   * NutriSystem
   * Parco Foods
   * POCO PAC
   * Private Selection
   * Ready Pac Cool Cuts
   * TITAN
   * Trader Joe's
   * TWISTED
   * Boca Grande Unbranded Wholesale
   * Wegmans Swiss Recipe
   * Weis Quality
   * Peanut Corporation of America or Parnell's Pride
   * King Nut
   * Parnell's Pride
   * Keebler
   * Famous Amos
   * Hy-Vee
   * Perry's Ice Cream
   * Shurfine
   * Wegman's
   * Little Debbie
   * South Bend Chocolate Company
   * WalMart Bakery
   * H-E-Buddy
   * Food Lion Bake Shop
   * Lofthouse
   * Parco Foods Chuck's Chunky
   * Pastries Plus
   * ZonePerfect
   * NutriPals
   * LÄRABAR
   * JamFrakas
   * Private Selection (Kroger Co)
   * Meijer
   * CLIF BAR
   * LUNA
   * MOJO
   * Optimum Energy Bars

Originally posted to OrangeClouds115 on Sun Jan 25, 2009 at 01:41 PM PST.

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