U.S. Secretary of Agriculture talks food safety - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture talks food safety

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By Wainwright Jeffers - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - People who live in the small South Georgia city at the center of a nationwide salmonella outbreak worry about their reputation and their economic future.

But the City of Blakely is not the only place here in South Georgia to deal with peanut product worries.

Two years ago, the City of Sylvester also had salmonella problems.

"Our peanut producing plant ConAgra had some problems a couple of years ago," said Mayor Bill Yearta, City of Sylvester.

It been more than two years since the ConAgra's Sylvester plant shut down and FDA Inspectors came in to see why Peter Pan Peanut Butter was making people sick.

Those problems have since been corrected.

Now with the spotlight on Peanut Corporation of America the Government said more must be done.

"We can do a better job in food safety, I think the USDA has to be committed to that the FDA has to be committed to that," said Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture.

The new agriculture secretary said the U.S. needs a modern system, a framework of sorts that helps to prevent these incidents from occurring.

Yearta is grateful the plant in Sylvester is up and running, but is saddened what the most recent outbreak means for peanut producers.

"Something someone has done somewhere else has put a bad name on peanut producers and peanut processors," said Yearta.

The Department of Agriculture says they'll work hard to keep this and any other industries from getting a bad wrap.

"My job is to ensure that people understand that we're working hard every single day at the USDA to make sure that our food supply is safe and secure and we're going to continue to do that," Vilsack

"I'm just grateful that things worked out the way they did peter pan is a great brand and they're back on the shelves and hopefully this will not hurt them," said Yearta.

Peanut product sales fell 40 percent after the PCA plant in Blakely was linked to salmonella.

More than 2,000 products were recalled, due to fears of possible contamination.

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