Monday, February 2, 2009

U.S. Peanut Butter Industry in a Jam

ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) – Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today outlined a strategy to address a recent salmonella outbreak affecting the U.S. The outbreak, traced to a Peanut Corporation of America processing plant in Blakely, Ga., has sickened over 500 people in 43 states and may have led to the deaths of seven people nationwide.

In a press conference held this afternoon, James “Skippy” Robertson, head of the CDC’s Department of Infectious Peas and Nuts, stated, “This is a very sticky situation. Salmonellosis, the infection caused by the salmonella bacterium is a very serious, very dangerous illness.”

“Now it has tainted our supply of peanut butter and peanut paste,” he continued, “prompting the recall of hundreds of products. A variety of products have been affected, from peanut butter crackers, to doggie snacks to Thai food which relies heavily on peanut paste. Unwitting restaurateurs continue to spread the bacteria like some modern-day Thai Food Mary. We must find a way to stop the spread of this disease or this crisis will certainly be jarring to the peanut butter industry as a whole."

He stopped short of suggesting that President Obama release some of the country’s peanut butter reserves as the demand for peanut products increases.

The plan released by the CDC to eradicate the peanut-borne menace is two-fold. The first tier of defense is one of education. The public must be made aware of the danger and adjust their lifestyles accordingly.

Dr. Simon Reese, Director of Goobers and Goobernatorial Studies at Emory University, said in a statement released by his office this afternoon, “If we all adhere to a few simple guidelines, the whole crisis will be over in a jif. When confronted by an unknown or unfamiliar peanut, one would do well to remember the cautionary tale, ‘Found a Peanut,’ written by Jack Schafer in 1958.”

Said Dr. Reese, “In Mr. Schafer’s musical allegory, arranged to the tune of ‘Darling Clementine’ and sung by schoolchildren across the U.S. for generations, the protagonist finds a peanut ‘just now.’ Upon cracking it open, he – or she, the text is unclear – finds that it is rotten, but eats it anyway. What follows is a fanciful tale wherein the protagonist dies and embarks on an archetypal journey to Heaven and hell, evocative of Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ before realizing that it was all a dream and is confronted once again by the choice of eating – or not eating – the peanut.”

“If you ‘find a peanut,’” he said, pensively, “don’t eat it.”

The Federal Drug Administration and the World Health Organization have joined with the CDC in implementing a second tier of defense against what some are already calling a Peter Pan-demic. With Federal funding, scientists at Johns Hopkins have identified a possible antidote capable of eradicating the scourge of salmonella in our lifetime.

The makers of both Smucker’s and Bama jams and jellies have pledged to incorporate the cure into their products and have committed to running their factories 24/7 for the duration of the crisis. As more and more Americans fall prey to this sickness, we might expect the call, “Would you please pass the jelly?” to become a rallying cry of the afflicted and a call for good health.

In the event that the CDC’s strategy does not work, Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, pledged 40 million tons of Vegemite to help jump start America’s hard-hit sandwich spread industry. This represents one third of all Vegemite people in Australia won’t eat, either.

Facing possible Federal charges, Peanut Corporation of America has retained the law firm of Pennington, Bennington & Johnson to represent them in any lawsuits resulting from the poisonings. Lawyers at PB&J have released a statement, reading in part, “It wasn’t our fault.”

Former U.S. president and sometime peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter, could not be reached for comment before press time. A spokesman for the Carter Center in Atlanta was adamant that this outbreak would not affect the introduction of President Carter’s new “Nut & Yahoo” candy bar due out later this year. The spokesman reiterated Carter's position that he can take no immediate action, saying the threat, “Is real. But, due to a conflict of interest, our hands are part tied.”


Anonymous said...

The whole thing is just nuts. Since there was a hiatus between outbreaks, i guess the offending producers went underground for a bit. We've really had to check labels against the 'bad' list, 'cause Dan eats peanut butter every day, sometimes with jelly, soemtimes with bananas and mayo. On waffles, too: legume my Eggo... Guess i'll screw the top back on and lick my knife. i'm done here, crawling back into my shell now.

Craig said...

This is a serious matter, and I'd appreciate it if you'd recognize when it is appropriate apply of spoonfull of levity into situations like these.

As for myself, I've contacted the Montagu's, the family descended from the 4th Earl of Sandwich, and therefore the family most directly responsible for this current nightmare, and you can imagine that those bastards are not going to a DAMN thing to cast a pall over anything that might smear their beloved "Sandwich" legacy.

You can appreciate, I am sure, why they would wish to avoid spreading anything untoward on "Sandwich" - they'd be toast if it did. It could cost them a wad of dough, and in this economic climate, nobody can afford to forget on which side their bread gets buttered.