The Peanut Butter Industry Needs a PR Boost


Americans are concerned about one of their most beloved treats: peanut butter. The situation was not singular – cases of product contaminated with salmonella were reported since 1985, and instead of declining, the instances only grew: from 168,000 cases in 1985, to 224,000 in 1993 and over 300,000 in 2008 – and products containing infested peanut butter are amongst the main causes in this development.

Yet Americans are back and buying, reports say, probably because of the bad shape of the American economy – peanut butter being for many an inexpensive alternative to meat (peanut butter provides protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, folate, dietary fiber, arginine, and high levels of the antioxidant p-coumaric acid). Many producers hope to see an increase of demand and prices by 2010, but the industry doesn’t do much for the consumers’ peace of mind.

Peanut butter is a main aliment for children’s menus in schools and kindergartens as well, many households cannot imagine breakfast without it and many charity organizations, including the Salvation Army, count peanut butter as a major ingredient to feed the poor. But the FDA didn’t make any recent updates on the recalls, and the industry keeps quiet about the case – so the consumers are naturally worried that another salmonella outbreak will follow if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t get funds for inspections.

Kroger, a major retail store, brings a PR boost through its annual Peanut Butter Open – this year they raised nearly $62,000 for the Central Virginia Foodbank and the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia to buy peanut butter, which is one of the most needed items at food banks. But this PR boost is not enough to bring peace of mind, as it doesn’t bring any news about product safety. None of the major brands talks about the issue, they continue their marketing campaigns as if nothing ever happened. Most of these are aimed at children, and the corporate sites do not contain any info about possible salmonella poisoning and what to do in case.

There were no reports of infested products related to the brands in the commercials above, however, they are equally responsible for informing customers about possible health issues related to the product they sell. These are the brands America trusts the most, and now with the Peanut Corporation of America (2.5 percent of the US processed peanuts) out of the picture, these brands will most likely replace the peanuts, peanut butter, peanut meal, and peanut paste supplies needed by institutional users such as schools and nursing homes.

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