American Peanut Council President Patrick Archer warned those who attended the National Peanut Buying Points Association meeting in Biloxi, Miss., on Sunday that the peanut recall will expand and the start of an industry recovery still is at least weeks away.
And "weeks" is a guess.
"You can expect there will be additional recalls" in the wake of the Peanut Corporation of America closing a second plant following reports that the Texas facility also was infected with salmonella, Archer said in a phoned-in presentation to the Buying Points Association Sunday morning. "This recall unfortunately is long from being over."
Consumers, Archer said, are "waiting for permission" that it's OK to eat peanut products again and they don't trust grocery stores to take recalled products off the shelves. The impact, he said, will continue for "weeks to come, but that's just my guess."
The recall includes many products that likely are not contaminated, Archer said, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had no alternatives given that PCA apparently lied about salmonella tests over the last two years.
"I think they had no choice," Archer said. "They had to recall everything that PCA produced."
In an environment in which even late-night comedian Jay Leno is cracking on peanuts, Archer said recovery will be a slow process.
Despite the domestic market turmoil, Archer did report a couple bright spots for the peanut industry. One is that the European market hasn't been impacted, and likely won't be because few products on the recall list are exported. Second is that the Canadian market is showing minimal impact, despite news that one of the nine deaths connected to the salmonella outbreak was in Canada.
The Peanut Council is pushing several key messages in its response to the crisis:
• Food safety is the industry's top priority. The PCA, Archer emphasizes, is a "rogue company outside the mainstream."
• The industry has strengthened its practices over the last two years, and can point to programs in place that emphasize this commitment.
• Peanut butter is not impacted.