The devil’s outbreak – US peanut salmonella outbreak sickens 666

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 26th February 2009

The salmonella outbreak in America linked to the now bankrupt Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) has been responsible for 666 illnesses and one of the biggest food recalls in US history. Tragically, it may have also led to nine deaths.

Over 2,000 products have been recalled from manufacturers large and small, who have used PCA’s products in everything from biscuits to ice-cream.

The scandal has caused consumer confidence in the food supply to plummet. Fewer than one in four consumers now believe the American food supply is safer than it was a year ago, according to new data from the University of Minnesota’s Food Industry Center.

After January’s national salmonella outbreak, just 22.5 per cent of consumers in the study said they were confident the food supply is safer than a year ago, the lowest reading since the study began.

The drop in confidence mirrors a similar drop last June, when a salmonella outbreak later traced to jalapeno peppers sickened nearly 1,500 people. The study involves continuously tracking consumer confidence in food supply safety via a weekly online survey of about 175 consumers from across the nation.

Several measures are being collected on an ongoing basis to monitor consumer concerns, expectations and perceptions of the safety of the food supply from natural/accidental contamination, and the defence of the food supply from deliberate contamination from an act of terrorism. These measures soon will be used to develop a composite food confidence indicator similar to the Consumer Sentiment Index that measures overall consumer confidence.

The indicator is unique because of its continuous tracking feature, said Jean Kinsey, director of the Food Industry Center. Consumers’ response to food-borne illnesses and recalls helps inform the design of food safety strategies and regulations.

“Consumer confidence is critical to their peace of mind as well as to the economic health of the entire food industry,” she explained.