The New York Times is reporting that the Peanut Corporation of America was fully aware of the contaminated peanut butter at its Georgia plant but proceeded to sell it anyway, according to officials from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.
“Michael Rogers, director of the division of filed investigations at the F.D.A., said that the inspectional team found records showing that on at least 12 occasions between 2007 and 2008, the company’s own tests of its product ‘identified some type of salmonella and released a product after it was retested, in some cases by a different laboratory.’”
Mr. Rogers went on to declare that “the firm took no steps to clean its plant after the test results alerted the company to the contamination, and the inspection team found problems with the plant’s routine cleaning procedures as well.”
Since the outbreak began, eight people have died and more than 500 have become ill as a result of consuming contaminated peanut butter products, and according to the Times, this plant has a history of sanitation problems. Inspection reports indicate that the plant has been cited numerous times since 2006 for violating cleanliness standards.
According to one report, dated August 23rd, 2007, “The food-contact surfaces of re-work kettle in the butter room department were not properly cleaned and sanitized.” Another report states that “the food-contact surfaces of the bulk oil roast transfer belt…were not properly cleaned and sanitized. The food-contact surfaces of pan without wheels in the blanching department were not properly cleaned and sanitized.”
In a statement to reporters, a spokesman for the plant said that his company “has cooperated fully with F.D.A. from Day 1 during the course of this investigation,” and that “we have shared with them every record that they have asked for that is in our possession, and we will continue to do so.”
Although the plant is reported to have numerous sanitation violations, the FDA is also facing sharp criticism in this matter. In a January 28th news release, U.S. Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) stated:
"The fact that four different strains of salmonella have been tied to Peanut Butter Corporation of America’s plant and products show not only that the company was not adhering to good manufacturing practices, but also that FDA inspectors were asleep at the switch.”
The investigation is still underway.
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