With the headlines full of peanut butter recalls and salmonella outbreaks, many people are skipping the Skippy and jetting past the Jif, sending peanut butter sales down 25%. Manufacturers are now spreading ad campaigns and giving out coupons, trying to reassure consumers that eating their products is safe.
[social_buttons]Smucker, the maker of Jif peanut butter, placed ads in newspapers across the country on Friday, stating that they did not buy from the Peanut Corporation of America, and included a coupon for a jar of Jif. ConAgra Foods (Peter Pan peanut butter manufacturer) is planning to run a similar ad campaign, also including a coupon.
“Obviously this has had a very negative impact on the industry.” – Maribeth Badertscher, spokeswoman for Jif.
Even though the salmonella contaminated peanut butter only represents a small percentage of the total sales by the peanut butter companies in the United States, the public relations issue is probably going to be with us for some time. The average American eats three pounds of peanut butter a year, and sales of peanut butter top $800 million a year. That’s a lot of goober peas.
The current outbreak has sickened over 575 people and caused eight deaths so far, and the recall of peanut butter products has been expanded to more than 1,500 different products.
California, Idaho and Minnesota received peanut butter and roasted peanuts from the federal government for school lunch programs which was supplied by the PCA, but no illnesses in students have been linked to those shipments.
The Department of Agriculture has now banned the PCA from doing any more business with the government, and the company’s CEO, Stewart Parnell, was removed from the Agriculture Department’s Peanut Standards Board. The company is under criminal investigation, and has been accused by federal regulators of knowingly shipping products that had tested positive for salmonella.
Isn’t it time for our food safety system to move into the 21st century? Here’s hoping that the new Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, will move forward with the idea of a food safety agency.