Thought the peanut scare was over? 15 new items added to the list just last week
At least 15 more products were added to the list in the past week and at least 70 so far in March, bringing the total to about 3,500. After Peanut Corp. of America filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7 (liquidation of assets), the company ceased communicating with its customers -- forcing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state authorities to try to figure out where PCA-produced products had gone. And it's not going smoothly.
So far, authorities have connected the products to nine deaths and nearly 700 people who fell ill. So the delay in finding products is dangerous at best and deadly at worst. You can search the list of recalled products here. If you have any of the products that have been recalled, you are urged to throw them away immediately.
Here's one complication to the notifications: The products became the ingredients used to make the ingredients used in the food-making process. So the path between the peanut products and where they ended up is not a straight line.
"This is a very active and dynamic situation," FDA spokeswoman Stephanie Kwisnek said. "Since the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) initial recall in early January, the recall has expanded on multiple occasions... In addition, the recall is very expansive and complex because firms that received product from PCA may have distributed the product to other firms who may have distributed the product further and/or may have incorporated the recalled product as an ingredient into products that were distributed through various channels and consumed in various settings."
Ingredients made at contaminated PCA plants in Georgia and Texas -- at which managers were accused of knowingly distributing tainted peanut products -- ended up in a wide variety of products from snack bars to cereal to ice cream to dog treats. None of the national brands of jarred peanut butter have been linked to this recall, however.
The FDA said it has contacted more than 17,000 businesses. So far, more than 300 companies have had to recall their products in 18 food categories making this one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.
To further show the potential breadth of such failures as what happened at Peanut Corporation, the FDA has had to notify officials in more than 50 countries that some of the tainted products might have been exported to them.
The extent of the problem demonstrates how much damage one out of control company could cause. Most companies that did business with PCA accepted representations from the firm that all was well at their plants.
But a handful, including Nestle, sent their own inspectors to the plants and stopped doing business with them. Kellogg CEO David Mackay, testifying before Congress, apologized to millions of customers for allowing the tainted ingredients to find their way into the food chain through their products.
The appointment of New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Margaret "Peggy" Hamburg -- a battle-tested public health cop -- gives some hope a broken system can get a needed overhaul. But with obscure companies scattered from coast to coast potentially one step away from similar situations, the challenges are enormous.