Peanut leaders assure their products are safe - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Peanut leaders assure their products are safe

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - More than two dozen South Georgia peanut growers and industry leaders met today, to assure the public that peanut products are safe to eat.

Since a salmonella outbreak was connected to a Blakely manufacturing plant, peanut product sales have plummeted.

South Georgia peanut growers know the public's confidence has to be restored, and they're worried about South Georgia's top money crop.

More than two dozen South Georgia peanut farmers, shellers, buyers, and brokers gathered to fight for the future of their industry.

Doug Wingate said "We just want the public to know that peanuts is safe, safe, safe to eat."

Peanut product sales fell 40 percent after the PCA plant in Blakely was linked to salmonella, and more than two thousand products were recalled.

Broker Jim Moore said "We just got to get the general public back eating peanut products and realizing you got one plant or one guy who screwed things up for all of us."

Agriculture is the number one industry in Georgia, and peanuts the top money crop in South Georgia. With a huge surplus of peanuts from last year's record crop still in storage, many peanut farmers may change crops in 2009.

Wingate said "The farmers, they don't know whether to plant peanuts this year or not. They don't know if there is going to be a demand for them."

Farmer Dennis Barrentine said "We already lost all kind of manufacturing jobs. The only last thing America produces is our agriculture."

Peanut industry leaders say now you can be assured their products are safer than ever.

National Peanut Buying Points Association President Tyron Spearman said "Every plant that's operating right now is being tested every hour, or more by FDA and others to make sure it's right. " "What you buy out there now you can guarantee is good."

Farmer Wilbur Gamble said "I say to the housewife and the consumer, you are taking a whole lot more risk riding in your automobile to the market than you are eating peanut butter."

Work on a national advertising campaign to restore consumer confidence is already underway. It's success will have a huge impact on South Georgia's economy and jobs in the future.

These peanut leaders hope to present some of their products to the new U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, Saturday when he speaks at the Georgia Farmers Conference in Albany.

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