Food banks toss donations due to salmonella outbreak

February 24, 2009 1:10:47 PM PST
The salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter and other peanut products has forced food banks in the Chicago area to toss out hundreds of pounds of donated goods. Two Illinois lawmakers are calling for changes to try and prevent future outbreaks and better protect the food supply.

Congressmen Peter Roskam and Mark Kirk recently reintroduced legislation to secure our nation's food system. This comes on the heels of the salmonella outbreak surrounding the distribution of contaminated peanut butter resulting in the deaths of nine people and sickening more than 600.

"Under this legislation, we're saying that if there's adverse information that comes forward that has to be disclosed. and you're not able to lay back in case you get a more favorable piece of testing results but that you've got a duty to move forward," said U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, (R) Naperville.

Roskam says his proposed legislation will close a dangerous loophole which allows suppliers to shop around for a lab willing to give it favorable results to gain entry into the food supply, provide protection for whistleblowers in the industry, enhance penalties for violators and impose stricter safety standards to ensure a safe food supply.

There are reports the Peanut Corporation of America, the source of the recent outbreak, actually found salmonella contamination on 12 occasions and still sold the products after hoping for a favorable test result.

"If it was up to me we would sit them and make him eat his own peanut butter. But it's not up to me and that's why we need the Roskam bill is necessary," said U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, (R) Highland Park.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository has had to recall over 500 lbs of food containing peanuts or peanut products. Most of that food has been destroyed or will be destroyed.

"For the food depository, thankfully, there hasn't been a great effect but it has been an inconvenience," said Robert Dolgan, Greater Chicago Food Depository.

At the Greater Chicago Food Depository workers spend a good part of their day sorting through food for recalled items that contain peanuts or peanut products. A number of items are found and placed in boxes ready to be discarded.

"Most of that will be destroyed. There was food that came in from a manufacturer we've identified and that will be sent back to the company for a credit," said Dolgan.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository is asking for food donations. But in light of the salmonella outbreak. It is asking people to be careful what they donate.