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FDA "fiddles" while contaminated peanut butter poisons additional victims

According to federal health officials, the FDA did not take legal action to address the salmonella contamination of peanut butter, even though it had identified the source, while it negotiated the terms of a recall announcement with the company responsible for the problem.  Eight people have now died and more than 500 were made ill.   A total of more than 430 products have been recalled and the company's first positive salmonella alert goes all the way back to 2007. 

The FDA positively identified the plant responsible for the outbreak on January 9 of 2009, but did not announce a limited recall until January 13. The recall was expanded on January 16, and again to include all products produced at the plant in 2007 and 2008, on January 28.  Craig Wilson of Costco told the New York Times that his firm began taking products off the shelf even before the recall: "I don't want to say that you can't rely on the FDA, but we certainly can move quicker than they do."

Instead of negotiating recall terms with the at-fault company, the FDA could have sought authority to recall the product from a federal judge or made an announcement of its "suspicions".  In this case, and normally, the FDA did neither.  A food safety lawyer in Seattle was quoted by the New York Times to the effect that the agency has neither the authority nor the courage it needs to keep American consumers safe.

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