CBS Finds 'Heavy Toll' on Salmonella-Free Peanut Industry

Occasionally, the news media provides justice for a wronged industry or company.

That’s what correspondent Mark Strassmann’s story did on the Feb. 11 “CBS Evening News.” He exposed the repercussions of the recent salmonella contamination at Peanut Corporation of America – on companies that are clean, safe and salmonella free.

Strassmann interviewed David Singer, the president and CEO of Lance Inc., a snack foods company. Singer explained how his company is suffering from “guilt by association” despite its perfectly safe products.

CBS pointed out how that is hurting Lance and other companies’ bottom line. “Overall sales of peanut products are down almost 25 percent. At Lance Crackers, the loss is about a million dollars a month,” Strassmann said. “And yet this plant’s food safety record is spotless. No food contamination in 37 years.”

Following a person around a Lance plant, Strassmann detailed how Lance takes hundreds of swabs every week to make sure the plant is salmonella free. He also named the two companies that were at fault for the most recent salmonella outbreaks, ConAgra in 2007 and Peanut Corporation of America, the company at the root of this outbreak.

Strassmann’s report was much more balanced than media treatment of the tomato industry in 2008. That media hyped salmonella scare cost the tomato industry an estimated $100 million, according to AP. CNN host Lou Dobbs became indignant enough to call for then President Bush to be impeached over the matter.

In the end, the FDA found that the source for the salmonella outbreak wasn’t tomatoes, but jalapeno or Serrano peppers.