Putting the ‘PB’ back in PB&J

Published 10:54 pm Thursday, February 26, 2009

There’s a song from the beloved family movie “Mary Poppins” whose lyrics proclaim that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Mind you, I hate musicals, but with three grandchildren who aren’t allowed to watch MTV, I’ve seen my share.

For Inky, our 15-year-old border collie mix, the trick to getting her to take her medication is peanut butter. A dab of the gooey food staple on the end of her two pills at breakfast and at bedtime ensures that she’ll take them without complaint. Without the peanut butter? No way.

Inky, of course, has never heard of the salmonella outbreak. Even if she had, considering the things I’ve seen her eat over the years, I doubt she’d let a little thing like a little bacteria keep her from enjoying her favorite treat.

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My mind, however, was on her as I attended a meeting this week of the Virginia Peanut Growers Association and listened to speakers talking about the damage that salmonella in one company’s peanut paste has done to the industry. At her age and in her increasingly frail condition, a bout with salmonella poisoning would probably be fatal to Inky. As a good Daddy, I wanted to be sure she’s safe.

As it turns out, consumers throughout the nation share my concerns. Unfortunately, many haven’t had the opportunity to learn the truth that I did at Tuesday’s meeting.

Peanut farmers are understandably aggrieved at the actions of a single processing company that, in the words of Marie Fenn, president of the National Peanut Board, “essentially made a lot of people very angry.” Not to mention very sick.

Fenn reiterated the findings of the Food and Drug Administration that “major national brands of jarred peanut butter found in grocery stores have not been among the products recalled.” In fact, less than 3 percent of the nation’s peanut products were made by Peanut Corporation of America, the company whose production plants are at the center of the salmonella outbreak.

In other words, the products that the farmers are producing are safe, as are most of the products made from them. Peanut Corporation’s products have long since been pulled off the shelves of supermarkets and taken out of circulation at schools, nursing homes and military bases.

If she knew how to spell “peanut butter” — much less “salmonella” — Inky would breathe a sigh of relief. You can, too. And you can go back to the grocery store, pick up a jar of crunchy-style Jif or Peter Pan and slather it all over your bread.

After all, it’s high in protein, and it’s good for you. Not to mention, safe.