FDA Knew of "Putrid" PCA Peanuts Weeks Before Salmonella OutbreakJan 30, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The behavior of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) and federal regulators in relation to this year's massive salmonella outbreak continues to raise serious questions. We've already reported that the company knowingly shipped products from its Blakely, Georgia facility that tested positive for salmonella contamination at least a dozen times in 2007 and 2008. Now, the Associated Press is reporting that, just weeks before the Salmonella outbreak began, peanuts exported from that PCA plant were also found to be tainted and were returned to the U.S.
The salmonella outbreak has so far sickened 529 people in 43 states, and may have contributed to the deaths of eight people. According to the Centers for Disease Control, illnesses were first reported in September 2008.
The outbreak has been traced to peanut butter, peanut paste and other ingredients made at the PCA facility in Georgia. PCA, which provides ingredients to 85 other food firms, has recalled everything made at the Blakely plant since January 2007.
More than 390 other products made by other firms, including the Kellogg Company and General mills, have also been recalled. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has even set up a new online database to help consumers track the recalls. The agency said it expects the recalls to continue, and has cautioned consumers to avoid foods made with peanut butter or paste unless they are sure the ingredients did not come from PCA.
According to the Associated Press, an FDA report dated September 15 indicated that the agency had refused to allow PCA peanuts back into the U.S. after they were rejected by an importer in Canada. The report said the peanuts were denied re-entry because they contained a "filthy, putrid or decomposed substance, or is otherwise unfit for food." It is unclear what that substance was because the FDA never bothered to test the peanuts.
The Associated Press said it could not determine if the September 15 date on the report was when the unspecified importer rejected the shipment or when the FDA refused it. It also was not known whether the peanut shipment ultimately was destroyed or sent somewhere else. The FDA apparently never conducted any type of follow-up investigation.
The rotten peanut incident is just the latest disturbing news about PCA and its products. In addition to the FDA's discovery that tainted products may have been shipped by the Georgia plant, the agency's inspection found four different types of salmonella there. The inspection also turned up mold, roaches and a leaking roof. The company also didn’t clean its equipment there after finding contamination, and didn’t properly separate raw and finished products, the FDA said.