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Peanuts, Almonds & Poop

August 25, 2014

Eating can kill you. You can choke, have an allergic reaction, suffer from a heart attack, trigger a diabetic shock, or given long enough and if you try hard enough you could develop a nasty case of gout.

Eating will never save your life. No food or combination of foods will make you live forever. You’re going to die anyway. Sorry.

But if you’re going to get sick from eating dangerous food, one would hope for being felled by eating exotic dishes in faraway countries, or from slurping back raw oysters on the beach, or after the culmination of a decadent 31-course meal. There is a certain sense of purpose in catching a bug from a rare hamburger or a runny egg yolk. Some things in life are worth the risk.

Organic almond butter isn’t one of those things. Sadly, it seems that peanut and almond butter manufacturers are having a hard time keeping the poop out of the nuts.

Bill Marler was quoted in the Oregonian recently saying:

“I don’t think they’ve gotten the message that peanut butter is a risky product when not handled properly,” Marler said. “In all the prior outbreaks, it’s been contamination from bird or mice or rat feces. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand you need to protect product from that kind of contamination if there is not a kill step afterwards.”

He’s reacting to last week’s FDA recall of a whole heap of peanut butter and almond butter for possible salmonella contamination. I thought you would be interested to know how nut butters can carry salmonella. It’s not too far afield from how black pepper can be contaminated with salmonella. Poop is everywhere. And some things just don’t get cooked.

Fortunately, in this go ‘round the Trader Joe’s peanut butter the children love to gobble up isn’t impacted. But both the Trader Joe’s creamy and crunchy raw almond butters are. And before you start thumbing your nose at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods is also supplied by the same producer. That means their 365 Creamy, 365 Crunchy and 365 Organic Creamy roasted almond butters were also impacted by the recall.

The full list of products can be found here.
Or if you want to see pictures, you can go here.

On the list, you’ll also find Target’s Arrowhead Mills label of organic peanut butter.

It kills me how many people think buying organic gives them another level of protection from foodborne illnesses. Maybe this was true once upon a time, when organic meant food grown by small family farmers who took extra care in its production. These days it’s become more of a marketing term used by big agribusiness to sell food at higher prices.

If this nut butter recall was a one time event, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Only four people got sick and the FDA is on top of it. But right now, executives from the Peanut Corporations of America are on trial for their role in the 2008-2009 salmonella outbreak. In that instance, 714 people got sick and nine people died. From poop in the peanut butter.

Before that, there was the great Peter Pan / Great Value peanut butter recall of 2006-2007. This earlier incident sickened 715 people with salmonella. And after the PCA debacle, the industry still had problems in 2012 with Sunland Inc’s peanut butter. Besides resulting in the tragic loss of Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter made with Sea Salt, the manufacturer sickened 42 people with salmonella.

All of this led Bill Marler to ponder, “Is Peanut Butter Safe?”

Of course it’s not. It’s food. It’s inherently dirty and dangerous. But eating it is one of those risks we think is worth taking. Well, maybe not for peanut butter. Still, I’m perfectly happy eating at the sketchy dim sum place with the unthinkably low health inspection score.

Maybe Elvis was onto something with his grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich. Not only does it elevate something as ordinary as peanut butter, but it may very well kill any nasties lurking in the raw ground nuts. That is if you can get the center of the sandwich to 167 degrees without charring the bread to cinders.

Armed with an instant read thermometer, it could be a fun project for a rainy day.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 25, 2014 12:02 pm

    Shop at a store that lets you grind your own peanut butter. We get ours at Healthy Living and I’ve never seen any poop in there.

  2. August 25, 2014 12:32 pm

    And then there’s the fact that the FDA is trying to kill off our artisan cheesemaker businesses for no good reason whatsoever. I mean, wtf???

    http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2014/08/19/one-of-the-best-cheeses-in-america-came-from-wisconsin-until-new-regulation-stepped-in

  3. Zonay permalink
    March 6, 2017 10:12 am

    It was good 😁😎😀😀

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