FDA Knew About Tainted Peanut Butter And Spinach But Was Too Poor To Act

Remember that spinach and peanut butter that got recalled? Turns out the FDA knew of the dangers to the food supply for years but, understaffed and underfunded, they only took tiny steps to address the problems.

The FDA checked out salmonella complaints at the ConAgra plant back in 2005, but left and didn’t investigate further after the company didn’t supply additional requested documents.

The FDA also knew of persistent problems with the spinach and other leafy green vegetables, but lacked sufficient resources to press the matter.

“This administration does not like regulation, this administration does not like spending money, and it has a hostility toward government. The poisonous result is that a program like the FDA is going to suffer at every turn of the road,” said Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich). — BEN POPKEN

FDA Was Aware of Dangers To Food [Washington Post] (Thanks to Lana!)


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  1. timmus says:

    Just curious — isn’t this more within the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture? I’m really surprised to hear about the FDA going into these plants.

  2. Darren W. says:

    Somehow I think that the Food and Drug Administration MIGHT be concerned about tainted food. Just a hunch.

    Even the Libertarian in me wants a well funded FDA.

  3. OnceWasCool says:

    What bothers me is that ConAgra Knew and did nothing. Shouldn’t we be alarmed at other ConAgra products that make it through to our tables. How many “Upset Stomachs” are the result of bad ConAgra food products?

    Makes you wonder..

  4. catnapped says:

    The FDA might be concerned but if they’re not getting funding they’re not going to be able to do much…

  5. catnapped says:

    @oncewascool: All about the benjamins…all about the benjamins…

  6. @timmus: Apparently not, though I think it does make sense that the FDA would check out the safety of food plants since that’s about how the food is handled and processed as opposed to how it’s grown/raised.

    Perhaps Consumerist could have an article about who’s responsible for what when it comes to food safety?

    @oncewascool: Exactly. The FDA was broke but that shouldn’t have stopped ConAgra from doing the right thing.

  7. timmus says:

    It’s interesting that about 10 years ago I started avoiding ConAgra foods. Back then I lived the bachelor life and ate a lot of TV dinners and prepackaged meals. At some point I noticing that a certain cross section of my food tasted like crap, and come to find they were all ConAgra products. I started checking labels and avoiding those items and all was well again. I really don’t think the company gives a rat’s ass about safety, much less quality.

  8. AcidReign says:

    …..Oh yes, the FDA can inspect any food plant during operating hours! (Sez the bottling plant wage slave, who knows!)

  9. Dont Know Me? You Are Me. says:

    Politics aside, I think the evidence is overwhelming: no one in the legislative or executive branches of the federal government dislikes spending money. It’s obviously a matter of where they most like to spend it.

  10. Red_Eye says:

    @oncewascool: Trust me if you ate some of the tainted peanut butter there would be no mistaking the end result. I know, we had 4 jars of the crud. I was sicker than a dog for a week before the announcement, coincidentally a few days after having a PBJ sandwich.

  11. B says:

    @knave77: They like spending it on whomever is funding their campaigns, which is usually the companies that don’t want to be regulated.

  12. iameleveneight says:


    Me too. So does this mean I can sue the government too?

  13. royal72 says:

    @iameleveneight: this is america, so sue whomever you like and as long as there’s plenty of money to be won.

  14. zolielo says:

    @timmus: As far as I remember the FDA does everything except cattle and poultry which is the FSIS CSI.

  15. TechnoDestructo says:

    Well, gee, they like government enough to expand the scope of the FCC. (Or are they making up for the budget difference by just ignoring interference caused by Christian broadcasters even more than they used to?)

  16. grannymiller says:

    I’m a small farmer.
    It is my opinion that past and current FDA & USDA regulations, coupled with Congressional legislation has made food in the US positively dangerous.
    Any more power to the USDA or the FDA could prove to be catastrophic.

    For the past 65 years or so, legislation and over regulation has fostered the fracture, industrialization and centralization of the US food supply.

    Huge, powerful monopolies with global interests now control well over 85% of what is put into American mouths.

    Legislation has helped to empower Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Con Agra, Tyson, Monsanto and et. al. , and has made them the darlings of Capital Hill.

    Not only that, but the past five or six Administrations have ignored the traditional admonitions of both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington (that’s quite a feat), and have instead favored the Wisdom of the New York Stock Exchange.

    Any criticism of the WTO and global economics in general has been dismissed as backwards protectionism.
    Most Americans are disconnected to their food and haven’t a clue where it comes from.

    NAFTA and other trade fiascos have encouraged the importation of cheap food from the third world.

    I find it instructive that people will readily buy and consume food grown in a country that they would not dream to drink the water if they were there on vacation.

    More regulations and legislation is not the answer to the current Food Safety Crisis -it will only make the problem worse.

    The apple cider panic of a few years ago is my favorite example of this principle.

    Awhile back, people were poisoned by apple cider contaminated with e.coli and salmonella.
    Big orchards and dirty corporation mega farms were responsible – not small family operations.

    So instead of lawsuits and fines to punish the offenders, and entire industry and food product was altered.
    The net result was that the Guilty were rewarded and the Consumer was punished.

    Many small farms and orchards were ruined.
    Small farmers either would not (our farm) or could not ( too expensive) comply with the new laws. The result was that mega farms and big ag corporations just got bigger, cranked out more “apple cider” and the hapless consumer was once again screwed.

    Nowadays apple cider must be pasturized.
    Pasturized cider has no bacteria, friendly or otherwise, and hence cannot harden or ferment. That’s one of the things characteristic of apple cider.
    So what passes for cider these days in the grocery store, is really just apple juice.
    What had once been a healthful drink and an American fall traditions is now lost.

    Where I live it is easier to score a bag of Heroin then a gallon of unpasteurized cider.

  17. notebook says:

    I’m waiting for someone in the legislator to each a tainted PB&J sandwich, and THEN think about where money should go.

    But… it’s true. They’d rather spend money to make themselves look better then much else. It’s like that commercial I once saw, where this guy said a tobacco company donated a large sum of money for a relief of some sort.
    And that they spent more ADVERTISING this, then the amount of money they’d donated.