Peanut industry ramping up food safety efforts

By  Stephanie Springer  - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –We all want our food to be as safe as possible when it hits the dinner table but unfortunately we don't see what our food goes through before we eat it.

After major outbreaks of illness connected to peanuts in recent years, the peanut industry is really ramping up its food safety efforts.

Food safety is especially important this year because the FDA has made some surprise visits to some of the buying points and some of those buying points were not ready.

Although no food safety certification is required, this program was put together show the various buying points what they need to do to have the best quality product possible

Its one of the only farm commodities where everything grown by the farmer, is eaten by a human. "Everything we do is going to a consumer, and they are going to eat the product," said Darlene Cowart, Corp. Food Safety Director for Birdsong Peanuts.

But last years Salmonella outbreak was a wake up call for people involved in all aspects of the peanut industry.

From the time it is out in the field, to the time you take a bite of that peanut butter sandwich, a peanut goes through several steps.

"Every step in the peanut world there is a quality step to try and protect that quality that the farmer grows," said Executive Director of the National Peanut Buying Points Association, Tyron Spearman.

One of those steps, is when the peanuts are shipped to various buying points around America. "When peanuts are harvested off the farms they come to the buying point and they hold peanuts in storage facilities in warehouses for many months prior to arriving at shelling facilities," said Cowart.

But when those peanuts are sitting in those warehouses, there is opportunity not only for contamination but also for protection.

Today more than 100 people showed up for a training course geared towards the various buying points and food safety in the storage facility. "We have more direction as to what should we do to prevent something like this from happening again," said Spearman.

And some changes are on the way starting with where the peanuts are dumped. "The pits have to be cleaned periodically you cannot have birds or places for birds to builds birds nests," said Spearman.

Also, no more glass light bulbs. You must use a non-shatter bulb with a protector around it.

And the outside should be protected too. Everything from rodent control around the facility to treating the tops of the sheds so birds cannot build nests.

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