Community hopes for good news soon -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Community hopes for good news soon

February 16, 2007

Sylvester -- The Federal Drug Administration is still at the ConAgra Foods Plant in Sylvester today.   They are investigating the source of salmonella the CDC believes contaminated peanut butter made in South Georgia.            

Less than half of the employees who normally work at the plant were asked to come in to work today.  Sylvester's Mayor is calling on the city to support the plant as it goes through this tough time.           

Only 40 percent of the plants' employees were at work Friday. The good news is all of those employees who missed two days' work will still be paid for the time off. The other news here is the fact that tons of peanut butter jars that might have been sold to the public remains potentially unsafe.      

ConAgra told us they are fully cooperating with the government's investigation. But the truth of the matter is, many of the people we spoke with about this recall feel very uneasy and fear it could hurt the local economy.

Sylvester's mayor Bill Yearta is asking people to be optimistic. "That could be a reaction, but I'm sure with all that they can do if there is a problem to correct that problem. I feel confident that Peter Pan peanut butter will certainly be safe in the future. Knowing what a fine company they are, they will resolve the issue if that's the case in a very timely manner."   

Velma Walker knows what it's like working for a peanut company.  For nine years, she worked in the same building that is now home to the plant that makes Great Value and Peter Pan. "We graded peanuts and pecked the rocks and glass out of them you know," she said.  

News of a possible salmonella outbreak is hard to take.   Had you ever seen anything like this happen? "Never have. Never heard of it around here."  

And like many people here, she's scared.   "It's something that we hate to hear," said Mayor Yearta, who wants people to stand together and support the plant he calls a community friend.  "They're a great corporate citizen of ours and do many good things in our community. It's like when something happens to a friend, you're certainly concerned about it."  

We caught an employee here who stopped by to pick up his paycheck.   "I ain't been to work in a few days," Mike Wise said. When's the last time he'd been to work? "A couple of days ago."  

He's part of that 60 percent of people who were told not to come to work Thursday or Friday as the plant investigates.  He's hoping for the best.  "Long as they don't shut it down, I'll be straight."    

People who live here fear if the FDA finds wrongdoing, it could affect the local economy.   

Representatives from ConAgra tell us they have very stringent safety procedures in place on a daily basis and don't feel there is a major threat. They also say they don't anticipate the possible outbreak will force them to close or cut staff.   

ConAgra says they don't know how many jars are affected by this possible contamination. Officials are also testing the peanut butter jars of some of the salmonella victims. It's a waiting game, but people say they're willing to play it the public's health is at stake.           

ConAgra says it hopes to be back at full staff Monday, but workers will be performing tasks not related to peanut butter production.         

  • Consumer notice from ConAgra
  • WALB coverage on this story:

Family thinks peanut butter may be illness source

CDC struggles to find source of peanut butter salmonella

Lawmaker asks colleagues to discard peanut butter presents

District health offers salmonella testing

Peanut butter plant stops for inspection

Salmonella outbreak affects local hospital

Retailers move quickly on peanut butter recall

Health officials link Salmonella outbreak to peanut butter



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