Peanuts, Prison, and POV of a Food Scientist – Food Science in the News

Former executives from the Peanut Corporation of America are going to jail for their actions during a Salmonella outbreak. Food Business News has more than a few articles covering the events of the trial, but I wanted to throw my two cents in to the food safety perspective that consumers may not have considered.

Quick Green-Eyed Insight on the food safety aspect of the executives from the PCA going to jail.

Danger Alert

More than once, I’ve had to negotiate with an ingredient supplier who does not want to test their ingredient for salmonella, Listeria or E coli. They might say, “But we’ve been testing for 10 years and we’ve never had a problem. So we started testing every OTHER lot… or every OTHER *month**…”

Guess what, you won’t have a problem until you DO.

You can’t use “3 outta 5” for pathogen testing. You also shouldn’t use a teaspoon from one box to represent a whole truck’s worth of supply. That’s like flying into LAX and assuming all the cars in the parking lot are black because of the 3 you saw parked on the roof. Now if you took multiple snapshots throughout the whole parking structure, you’d get a better representation, but you may still miss the one rainbow colored school bus parked in the back corner of Level 2.

It’s not just whether or not you test, but for what, how, and how often.

Some ingredients like salt, butter, sugar, beta alanine seem like impossible environments for bacteria to grow. But certain bacteria can grow in thermal vents in the ocean floor. Some bacteria love to grow in salt. And salmonella can grow in something as oily as peanut butter.

I hope this case brings more light to the importance of microbial testing and gets more people talking about food safety. Something to think about / ask about next time you see an energy drink sold only online or a story about the “toxic chemicals” in our foods.

Food Business News: Peanut Corporation of America executives indicted

Related Story: Consumers fear some ingredients more than pathogens

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