Ever wonder about how the peanut industry works.  We sure did, especially while visiting south Georgia where the Peanut Corporation of America’s salmonella-tainted processing plant is located. Today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution stepped up with the facts on how things are suppose to work.

The A-J said:

>Georgia peanuts typically are planted in May and spend 140 days on average growing into mature plants. They thrive in Georgia’s sandy soils and subtropical climate, making the state the No. 1 peanut producer in America.


> The plants flower above ground, but they bear fruit underground. To harvest them, farmers use a device known as a digger-shaker-inverter, which slips under the plant, lifts it out of the ground, shakes off the soil and flips it over, so the peanuts are facing up, toward the sun.

> At this point, the insides of the peanut shell, or pod, are 40 percent water. The pods are left to cure in the sun for about three days, during which time the moisture content declines to between 12 to 18 percent.

> Now the farmer uses a combine to separate pod from vine, and harvests the pods. One acre typically produces more than 3,000 pounds of peanuts. The farmer hauls the harvested nuts to a “buying point” to be graded and sold to shellers.

> The shellers haul the peanuts by semi-truck to warehouses or directly to shelling plants, where machines remove the hulls and render the kernel, or what we call the nut. The shellers then sell the shelled peanuts to processors.

> Processors put shelled nuts into roasters. These machines cook peanuts at 250 to 300 degrees for 15 to 30 minutes —- a process that salmonella bacteria cannot survive. Peanut Corp. of America in Blakely is a peanut processor. The Food and Drug Administration report on the company states that “this firm has not established the effectiveness of the temperature, volume or belt speed specific to this roaster to assure it is adequate as a kill step for pathogenic bacteria.

> Once the roasting is complete, the processor must take care to keep the cooked peanuts segregated from raw ones. They may not come into contact with any raw material, or dust from raw material, or equipment that has been exposed to raw material. Otherwise, the processor risks undoing the purifying work done by the roasters.

More in the A-J can be found here.