May 26, 2020

Georgia Department of Agriculture Food Safety Efforts Need Improvement

A new audit just released by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts has found that the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s (DOA) increased efforts to oversee food safety are coming up short.

Petri DishAgriculture Commissioner Gary Black, a former lobbyist for Georgia Agribusiness Council, was elected after the disastrous and deadly Salmonella outbreak caused by peanut butter and peanut paste produced by the Peanut Corporation of America. In that outbreak, more than 700 people were sickened and nine people died. The Justice Department launched an investigation into the outbreak that found PCA looked for a lab that would provide acceptable results after initial tests found their products were contaminated with Salmonella.

After the outbreak, which depressed Georgia’s peanut industry, the state’s legislators passed a law requiring food facilities to conduct regular pathogen tests and report positive results to the DOA. High risk food processors (54 facilities) must test two times a month; medium facilities monthly, and low risk plants every three months.

According to the audit, there were only seven positive results reported during the first two and a half years of the new program. In addition, while the DOA has a risk-based approach for licensing and testing foods, they do not have a risk-based approach for inspections. At the current time, the DOA is supposed to inspect facilities routinely every six months. But they are not meeting that goal. The audit states that as of May 2011, 51% of facilities had been inspected within the last six months. One hundred forty three facilities, or 19% of the total plants in the state, had not been inspected in more than a year.

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