Tight state budgets have led some of the biggest fruit and vegetable growing farm states to leave dozens of food inspection jobs vacant at a time when hundreds of people have been sickened by a nationwide salmonella outbreak tied to a filthy peanut processing plant. The salmonella outbreak linked to Peanut Corp. of America has sickened hundreds, may have caused nine deaths, and prompted one of the largest food recalls in the nation's history.
Georgia, the site of the plant, has about 60 inspectors for some 16,000 sites. However, budget cuts have forced the state agriculture department to keep 15 inspector positions vacant. Florida, Texas and California are among other states facing the same problems while food experts say the federal government relies increasingly on states to monitor the nation's food supply. Food safety experts warn that each loss of an inspector increases the possibility of food problems eluding detection. Texas has 8 vacancies, leaving 34 people to inspect about 21,000 facilities. Florida has 12 open positions of its 129 inspector jobs. This is horrible.