Recall Costs Peanut Industry $1 Billion

The U.S. peanut industry could lose $1 billion because of an outbreak of salmonella that has caused the biggest food recall in U.S. history, Georgia's peanut commissioner said on Wednesday.

Losses will mount until the ongoing outbreak ends, said Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission. "We could see total economic losses of a billion dollars due to this recall," Koehler said in testimony prepared for a hearing of the House of Representatives small business committee.

"We are dealing with a situation of historic proportions," Koehler said. "Rebuilding in the peanut industry cannot fully begin until the outbreak is over and the recall is complete."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 683 people in 46 states have been sickened in the outbreak linked to foods that used peanut ingredients made by the now-bankrupt Peanut Corp of America. It says illnesses are still being reported among people who ate recalled brands of peanut butter crackers.

The outbreak continues to affect hundreds of the company's customers and has forced the recall of 3,235 products.

The recall has renewed already vociferous calls for the FDA's food oversight duties to be strengthened, and several committees in Congress are examining ways to do this.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a similar hearing on today.