During a salmonella outbreak of 2008 and 2009 nine people died, 166 were hospitalized and more than 700 fell ill. Authorities ultimately traced the contamination of Salmonella Typhimurium back to peanut products manufactured in a Texas plant owned by the Peanut Corporation of America. According to the US CDC an estimated 48 million people each year are affected by food borne illnesses resulting in over 100,000 hospitalization and 3,000 deaths. In this one case, however, there were several factors that caught the general public’s attention:
- Illnesses were caused all over the US without apparent patterns at first;
- People died from exposure in nursing homes and other medical facilities;
- Many different products across different company’s products and brands were found to be contaminated, both commercial and institutional;
- Ultimately the media found that the peanut processing plant had been operating legally in Texas without EVER having been inspected by state or federal food safety organizations.
As a result of the tremendous publicity and outrage of this embarrassing outbreak a White House Food Safety Working Group was formed to investigate this specific failure in the US food safety network. The result was the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed by Congress and to be implemented by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).