Would a single food agency have stopped Salmonella peanut outbreak?

In apparent good news for the rest of the American food industry, the folks at Peanut Company of America appear to be douchebags acting on their own after Food and Drug Administration types on Friday said the Blakely, Ga., plant actually shipped Salmonella-positive products without even shopping for a second negative result.

The company has denied any wrongdoing in the salmonella outbreak linked to at least eight deaths and 575 illnesses in 43 states. The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation. More than 1,550 products have been recalled.

Also on Friday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the recall of salmonella-tainted peanut products shows the need to modernize the U.S. food safety system and ultimately create a single inspection agency.

“We need a single agency that’s working in a modern framework. We don’t have that today.”

The push for a single food agency is a political distraction: the only actions that matter are the ones that will reduce the number of sick people.

PB and Salmonella: where are the third-party audits?

Watching the number of recalls continue to grow in the Salmonella in peanut butter debacle, I’m wondering why is it taking some of these companies so long to issue a recall? Today it was Jenny Craig and dozens others. My guess is these distributors have no idea what’s in the products they are hawking and it takes weeks to track down such info. If a food processor really knows its suppliers, it should take hours or minutes to figure out if the suspect ingredient is in some kid’s peanut cracker snacks or Kirstie Alley’s Jenny Craig bar (she’s not with the program anymore? Oh).

And sure, everyone’s calling for better government oversight, but what about the third-party auditors? If Peanut Corporation of America was supplying paste and industrial tubs of peanut butter to all these processors and distributers, they must have had third-party auditors through the peanut processing plant in Blakely, Georgia. What problems did the auditors uncover? And what was done about such problems?