BACK IN THE DAY: Former South Burnett Times journalist Rod Gardiner recounts what was making news during his time at the region’s most iconic newspaper.
BACK IN THE DAY: Former South Burnett Times journalist Rod Gardiner recounts what was making news during his time at the region’s most iconic newspaper.

From Rocky to Joh’s Country: A “Krafty” peanut scandal

AS PART of closing the chapter on the printed editions of the South Burnett Times after 99 years, we have reached out to former journalists and editors to get the exclusive scoop on what it was like to work at the region's oldest and most widely read newspaper.

Here is what Rod Gardiner (South Burnett Times journalist 1996-2000) had to say:

I started at the South Burnett Times in 1996 after 14 years at The Morning Bulletin in Rockhampton.

All I knew was that I was walking into the heartland of Joh country and that Kingaroy was the peanut capital of Australia.

Within a matter of weeks, if not days, all hell broke loose when rat faeces in an auger was blamed for the contamination of a batch of roasted peanuts at the Peanut Company of Australia (PCA).

A subsequent salmonella outbreak forced Kraft to recall 10 brands of peanut butter products.

This had a devastating effect on the PCA, which was forced to shut down for four months, and growers throughout the South Burnett region.

In subsequent legal proceedings, microbiologist Dr Peter Wood told the Supreme Court that an auger through which peanuts travelled at the PCA plant was "grossly soiled" by "scavenging rodents".

Originally from Christchurch, former South Burnett Times journalist Rod Gardiner recalls the highlights of his time at the region’s most iconic newspaper. Photo from September 2004.
Originally from Christchurch, former South Burnett Times journalist Rod Gardiner recalls the highlights of his time at the region’s most iconic newspaper. Photo from September 2004.

It was certainly a matter of more than peanuts for Kraft who faced a class-action suit in Australia's Federal Court from 905 people who became ill after eating contaminated peanut butter and peanut products.

The suit, filed in 1996, was settled two years later, when Kraft agreed to compensate the claimants. The settlement terms were not disclosed.

PCA was eventually awarded more than $1 million in insurance compensation.

During my four years at the SBT there were many memorable moments including sitting down with Sir Joh (no surname required) at Bethany for a "feeding the chooks" session on his birthday (January 13).

Unfortunately, a lot of what he told me was "off the record" so the published story was comparatively tame but I can assure you I learnt a lot about what made Sir Joh tick even though he had been out of politics for 10 years.

I can also vouch for the fact that his wife Lady Flo's trademark pumpkin scones were delicious!

RIP to the printed side of the South Burnett Times, it's certainly seen some good yarns over the past 99 years.

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