Keeping Food Healthy And Safe

Thursday, February 22nd 2007, 10:38 am
By: News On 6

The USDA is overhauling the way it inspects meat. The federal government will beef up inspections at 250 plants in April and expand to a thousand more by the end of the year. They're cracking down on e-coli and other food safety concerns. Meanwhile, the recent peanut butter recall is still fresh in many people's minds.

News On 6 anchor Terry Hood reports folks are back at work at the factory in Georgia, which sparked the recall. Health inspectors couldn't find a trace of salmonella. Still, they had shut down just to be safe.

In Tulsa, Bama Pie is watching quality just as closely. The pizza crusts fly off the line at Bama Pie plant at 11th and Delaware. 250 every minute, 15,000 every hour. And every crust is closely watched for even the slightest imperfection. "We have always had quality and food safety as our number one priority," says Patrice Fisher, Bama Pie’s Quality Assurance Vice President. She says the company screens each of its suppliers' ingredients and employees follow the strictest health guidelines.

Safeguards like a metal detector protect the production line. That device can detect down to a milligram of metal. Employees test the sensor every thirty minutes to make sure tainted crusts don't make it any farther. "Food safety is obviously of the highest priority in terms of protecting our customers, protecting the consumers," says Patrice Fisher.

Peanut butter is just starting to return to many store shelves. Rebuilding consumers' trust could take even longer. A Pennsylvania man says bad peanut butter killed his wife. William Barkay says he and his wife Robertta bought four jars of the recalled condiment. Robertta died before word of possible salmonella spread. Now he's suing. The government estimates 76 million people get food poisoning every year. That's why they're beefing up meat inspections across the country and the FDA was quick to recall sickening spinach last summer.

But the best prevention starts at the processing plant. ConAgra recalled its own peanut butter and Bama Pie’s Patrice Fisher says they would take the lead if something ever slipped through the cracks in Tulsa. "If Bama's name is on it, it has to be of the highest quality."

Bama Pie has a reputation to keep up. In 2004, they were crowned one of the nation's most conscientious companies, winning the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award.