Peanuts here ‘remain safe’

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Area peanut processors here want to reassure customers that their products remain safe to eat, hoping to assuage fears brought on by a massive recall.

“Unfortunately consumer confidence is down,” said Jane Riddick-Fries, co-owner of Feridies Peanuts in Courtland, which manufactures gourmet peanut products. “We need to get the word out that peanuts here were not affected.”

Lynchburg-based Peanut Corp. of America is the company that owns the Blakely, Ga., plant that’s responsible for the salmonella outbreak that has caused nine deaths and 637 illnesses.

PCA manufactured peanut butter and peanut paste that were used as ingredients in many products, including cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and dog food.

Virginia’s peanut industry not only includes peanut farmers and shelling plants, but many specialty food processors that make products such as cocktail or chocolate-covered peanuts, flavored peanuts, peanut brittle and peanut-based candies, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“Many of Virginia’s peanut products have earned the distinctive Virginia’s Finest trademark,” VDACS commissioner Todd Haymore said in a statement released Monday. “Virginia’s Finest products undergo a quality review in order to earn the right to use the designation.”

Riddick-Fries said she has had many calls from customers asking her whether Feridies peanuts were safe.

“I try and refer them to several Web sites that list companies that were not affected by the outbreak,” she said.

Dell Cotton, executive secretary of the Virginia Peanut Growers Association, said most peanuts here either are used in gourmet products or sold in-shell.

“The recall has not affected any of the products people around here would ordinarily buy,” he said. “Even regular jars of peanut butter are safe.”

Despite that fact, since news of Georgia’s tainted peanuts broke last month, sales of peanut butter have dropped by 23 percent, according to Information Resources Inc.

Lynn Rabil, president of Sedley-based Hubbard Peanut Co., said its products are safe as well.

“All Hubbard Peanut Co. products remain safe, healthy and free of contamination,” she said in a prepared statement. “Our products are in no way associated with the Peanut Corporation of America recall.”

Rabil said the company will continue to uphold its standards and has not been flagged as a possible “problem” facility.

“Hubbard Peanut Co. continues to maintain a high standard of cleanliness and sanitation and our facilities are subject to routine inspections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies,” Rabil said. “We have not been asked by the FDA to consider holding or recalling any of our products.”

Two Web sites that maintain a list of safe products are and

“The majority, if not all, of the (local peanut manufacturers) here are on that list,” Cotton said.