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Peanut butter remains mainstay of this editor’s lunchtime diet

I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. It was tasty and quite filling.

I had a peanut butter, banana and mayonnaise sandwich the day before yesterday. Also good.

My wife thinks adding mayonnaise to peanut butter and banana is disgusting, but she puts mayo on her hotdogs so she has little room to cast aspersions. I think it’s a good combination. For one thing, the mayo lubricates the peanut butter and keeps it from sticking to the roof of my mouth.

I felt no fear eating peanut butter this week. I felt no need to have my fingers hovering above 9-1-1 as I chomped down on my sandwiches and I didn’t feel it necessary to look up the poison control number. I have confidence in the folks who grow the peanuts and those who manufactured this particular brand of peanut butter.

Unfortunately, hundreds of consumers across the country aren’t so lucky and have been sickened by peanut products tainted with salmonella from a company that was allegedly not only slack in quality control, but also may have knowingly passed along products they knew were not up to standards. Some consumers have died, apparently from a toxin in peanut products they ate.

I’ll stop short of convicting the culprit in print. I’ll leave that to authorities, who may be contemplating federal charges. If evidence supports current assumptions, however, penalties should be swift and severe.

I’ve come down hard in this space several times on China’s lack of oversight and cavalier attitude toward food safety. I am even more repulsed that an American company would jeopardize consumers’ well-being. One can only assume that cost cutting was behind any decision to look the other way when inspections showed contamination. If allegations prove true, the few dollars saved in that ill-advised scheme will pale in comparison to the penalties — monetary and otherwise — that could be levied against the company and key management.

We claim to have the most abundant and safest supply of food in the world. And I’m convinced that assertion remains accurate. But events such as the latest peanut butter scare will do much to shake consumers’ confidence in their food supply. It’s especially bad when a product as popular, as economical, and as nutritious as peanut butter risks losing its place as a foundation of many diets. It’s especially important to children and their parents who rely on good ole peanut butter for school lunches and after-school snacks.

The peanut industry has rallied its forces to mitigate the damage. Here in Texas, Shelley Nutt, executive director, and Lindsay West, media director for Texas Peanut Producers Board, have worked hard to inform the public that peanuts are still a good food choice and that one company’s failure to police itself should not cast a pall over the entire peanut industry.

We hope whatever authorities have jurisdiction over this debacle will move swiftly to determine how the contamination occurred, who is responsible and what safeguards may need to be initiated to prevent a recurrence. And we hope that justice is swift and sure.

In the meantime, I intend to continue to eat name brand peanut butter — accompanied by jelly, bananas, apples and even a smidgen of mayo on occasion.

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TAGS: Peanuts
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