The recent salmonella outbreak that has been traced back to peanut butter made by the Peanut Corporation of America has left many consumers questioning the safety of peanut products.
The deaths and illnesses caused by this outbreak are disturbing and regrettable. The reported sanitation conditions at the processing facility that led to the outbreak should not be tolerated. I'm a farmer, but I'm also a consumer. My family and I eat peanut butter and peanut products, just like you.
The peanut butter affected by the recall was sold in bulk by PCA to other food manufacturers who used the peanut butter in their food products. Many companies had to recall products that contained PCA peanut butter, but the good news is, according to the National Peanut Board, PCA is estimated to have produced less than three percent of all peanuts and peanut butter sold in the United States each year. This means there are many peanut products not affected by the recall that are safe to eat.
After doing some research, I discovered there are at least 130 companies whose peanut products have not been included in the recall, including ConAgra Foods, Frito-Lay, Golden Flake, Hershey, Lance, Mars, Quaker Oats and Sara Lee. You can visit www.nationalpeanutboard.org to access the list of companies not affected by the recall or to access the Food and Drug Administration list of products included in the recall.
From the beginning of the recall, the FDA said major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores were not among the products recalled. This includes major brands of peanut butter such as Jif, Peter Pan and Skippy, just to name a few.
My family and I are continuing to eat peanut butter and peanut products because they are an affordable, healthy food. Peanuts provide more than 30 of the essential nutrients the USDA recommends daily for a balanced diet including protein, calcium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, zinc, niacin, potassium and magnesium.
Another great plus for peanuts and peanut butter is that they have zero cholesterol and contain monounsaturated fats, which help lower "bad" cholesterol. Research suggests that making peanuts part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.
March is National Peanut Month. Peanuts are grown in 80 Georgia counties. Georgia farmers grow almost half of the peanuts produced in the U.S. More than 50,000 jobs in Georgia exist because of our peanut industry, according to the University of Georgia. These jobs include farmers, people who work in peanut-related agribusinesses such as shelling plants, factories that roast peanuts or make peanut products.
The farm gate value of the 2007 peanut crop was almost $382 million. I can't think of a better way to celebrate the Georgia peanut than to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or some roasted peanuts.
Cecil Gober is president of the Gwinnett County Farm Bureau.