After a salmonella outbreak that hospitalized 700 and killed nine embarrassed the hell out of the Texas Department of State Health Services last year, the state has discovered 355 unlicensed food manufacturers across Texas. When tainted peanut butter was linked to a peanut plant in Plainview, officials discovered the factory had been operating without a license for four years, and public outcry led to an investigation into unlicensed food manufacturers. So far officials have found that the peanut factory was an anomaly and that most production sites are up to or close to code, which would suggest that states like Wisconsin that have recently relaxed food production licensing policy are perhaps not entirely out of line.
Before the peanut factory incident, both the state and the businesses were somewhat negligent. The businesses are playing dumb, and pretty much all of the business owners interviewed in the The Dallas Morning News article had no idea they were required to register with the state. The same article quoted State Senator Ren Nance as saying that TDSHS' "excuse was that if these businesses don't get a license with the agency, then how was the agency supposed to know they exist?" Oh, I don't know, maybe because one of the reasons they exist is to monitor food production across the state?
The Peanut Corporation of America in Plainview, Texas. [Photo: Jessica McGowan]