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Peanuts at the ready for replacing recalled products

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 23-Feb-2009

A glut of peanuts on the back of a bumper crop could come as a blessing for food manufacturers, providing a supply of peanuts for those who eventually wish to replace products that have been discarded.

Ryan Lepicier, spokesman for the National Peanut Board, told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “We are going into this crop year with peanuts in storage. Manufacturers that want to get their products back on the market will have to buy more peanuts.”

Although many consumers are avoiding all peanut products at the moment – even those not included on the FDA’s recall list – Lepicier said that he thought it was unlikely that manufacturers would stop producing peanut butter-based foods in the long term.

“It would be common sense that manufacturers of a popular product will reproduce it – and we know that peanut butter is a popular flavor, especially in the US,” he said.

So far, the recall linked to peanut products processed at the Peanut Corporation of America’s Blakely, Georgia plant has expanded to over 2,500 products and hundreds of companies are affected.

Farmers’ future fears

Last year, farmers harvested the biggest crop of peanuts in US

history. But although demand may be down at the moment, farmers are unlikely to feel the impact of the ongoing salmonella outbreak until next year’s harvest, Lepicier said. This is because they had already sold the peanuts from last year’s harvest before the outbreak struck.

“Farmers won’t really feel the impact until this time next year. Growers may plant less because of lack of demand but they were already going to plant 20 to 30 percent less acres because of the oversupply before the salmonella crisis,” he said.

According to National Peanut Board figures, Americans normally eat about 700 million pounds of peanut butter a year and about 600 million pounds of peanuts.

However, at this stage, Lepicier said he could not speculate on how much less Americans are now consuming.

He said: “We know that peanut butter is taking a hit as a result of this, but we don’t know what kind of a hit.”

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