After three weeks of losses, the Buckeyes hope to make a strong comeback tomorrow. Not the scarlet and gray gang from Columbus, the tasty one from Perrysburg.
Marsha's Buckeye's Inc., a local candy maker that supplies chocolate and peanut butter "buckeye" confections primarily to Cracker Barrel restaurants and some stores, has been out of business the last three weeks because of the salmonella food-poisoning scare with Peter Pan peanut butter.
Marsha's, at 25631 Fort Meigs Rd., relies on ConAgra Foods Inc.'s Peter Pan peanut butter as a key ingredient for its candy.
The suburban Toledo operation shut down in mid-February after a government investigation pointed to a Peter Pan plant as the source of a salmonella outbreak.
"As soon as we heard about it we got in contact with ConAgra and to find out if we had to pull the buckeyes off the shelf," said Dave Smith, chief financial officer for the local company. The firm has been in business 23 years and employs 22 to make the treats that resemble buckeye nuts.
ConAgra couldn't tell the company if the six-pound cans of peanut butter it had used for its candy were safe or tainted, but it agreed to reimburse the local company for any lost product, Mr. Smith said.
"They told us to go ahead and destroy all of our product," he said. That amounted to 26,000 pounds of buckeye candy recalled from sellers including Cracker Barrel, The Andersons, Five-Star Markets, and Gordon Foods.
That ended the potential threat, and no one has reported any sick-
ness, he said. But it left Marsha's Buckeyes without peanut butter, which Mr. Smith said is about one-quarter of a piece of buckeye candy. The company uses about 350 pounds of peanut butter, or enough to make 1,300 pounds of buckeyes, daily. It makes about 32,000 buckeyes a week.
"We wanted something close to Peter Pan to match the taste," he said. After a search, the company's food supplier, TPC Food Services, of Tiffin, found Unipro, which makes peanut butter for commercial uses that has a flavor close to Peter Pan's.
Marsha's Buckeyes expects to be supplying customers once again this week, but whether it returns to using Peter Pan is uncertain, Mr. Smith said. "It works for us, and ConAgra has been a good source for us, but until they pinpoint the source of the problem I'm not sure what we can do."
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