Tainted peanut butter and our troubled food system
An email from a PR person recently hit my inbox claiming that by high-school graduation, the average American has consumed 1,500 peanut butter sandwiches. I certainly did my bit to hold up the average; to this day I revere the unctuous paste of crushed, roasted peanuts.
Now, of course, comes news that a large producer of this protein-packed national treat (widely reviled, for reasons I can’t fathom, by people in other nations) has been sending out product that’s tainted by a particularly nasty strain of salmonella.
The New York Times‘ Kim Severson has a good piece on how the suspect peanut butter moved through the industrial food system, working its way into products as diverse as Clif Bars and Famous Amos Cookies.
News accounts don’t typically mention that good old peanut butter has been tainted for a while now — by sweeteners and dodgy industrial products. Look at Jif (not implicated in the salmonella outbreak), which is owned by Smuckers, which also owns Crisco, Pillsbury, and Hungry Jack. Merely roasting peanuts and pureeing them with a little salt isn’t enough for the makers of Jif peanut butter. Its ingredients include: roasted peanuts and sugar, plus "2 PERCENT OR LESS OF: MOLASSES, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL (SOYBEAN), FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES AND SALT." Yuck.
Come to think of it, the PR person whose email got me thinking about this issue was actually peddling a smart solution: a high-powerd kitchen contraption that allows you to make your own peanut butter (among many other things). As our famously fragmented food-oversight system continues to fail and our industrial-food purveyors continue to pump unnecessary crap into our food, do-it-yourself solutions make more and more sense.