I was reading Greg Phillip’s piece in the Dothan Eagle about the “Peanut Proud” celebration in Blakely, GA this weekend. “Peanut Proud” even has a web page and a Facebook page. I tried to follow on Twitter, but I could not find @peanutproud. Perhaps they will have that next year. Here is part of Greg’s story:
Three years ago, things didn’t look rosy here.
Peanut Corp. of America issued a massive recall of its food products in early 2009 after a salmonella outbreak from its Blakely plant, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later finding the company knowingly distributed food tainted by salmonella.
Today, the peanut industry has recovered and Blakely has rallied.
This weekend’s celebration with entertainment, peanut royalty, etc., looks like a good time. And, since I was in Blakely in 2009 (court-ordered inspection of crime scene), shortly after the announcement of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Salmonella outbreak, I know that Blakely and the peanut industry needs a boost.
I wonder, however, if there is any mention this weekend of the 714 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium reported from 46 states in 2009, or the nine who died?
According to the last update by the CDC, the number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2), Arizona (14), Arkansas (6), California (81), Colorado (18), Connecticut (11), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Hawaii (6), Idaho (17), Illinois (12), Indiana (11), Iowa (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Louisiana (1), Maine (5), Maryland (11), Massachusetts (49), Michigan (38), Minnesota (44), Missouri (15), Mississippi (7), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (14), New Jersey (24), New York (34), Nevada (7), North Carolina (6), North Dakota (17), Ohio (102), Oklahoma (4), Oregon (15), Pennsylvania (19), Rhode Island (5), South Dakota (4), Tennessee (14), Texas (10), Utah (8), Vermont (4), Virginia (24), Washington (25), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (5), and Wyoming (2). Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada.
Among the persons with confirmed, reported dates available, illnesses began between September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009. Patients range in age from <1 to 98 years. The median age of patients is 16 years which means that half of ill persons are younger than 16 years. 21% are age <5 years, 17% are >59 years. 48% of patients are female. Among persons with available information, 24% reported being hospitalized. Infection may have contributed to nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2).
My guess not. I doubt there will be a mention of the 714 – likely many more – who were sickened, or even nine seconds of silence for the nine who died from peanuts processed within a stone’s throw of this weekend’s celebration.
And, what about Stewart Parnell, the CEO of PCA? In Blakely it is likely he is despised more for tainting the reputation of the town than for knowingly shipping tainted peanuts around the country and sickening several hundred and killing nine.
Three years since most of the 714 have recovered, and after nine have been buried, Stewart Parnell is still in Virginia and a free man. To date, although families have been promised that a criminal investigation is ongoing, there has been no criminal prosecution of the man who “took the Fifth” in front of one of the last Congressional Hearings on food safety.
It is past time that those sickened and the families of those who died have justice.
So, Blakely be “peanut proud” this weekend. But join me in remembering the others impacted by Stewart Parnell and PCA.