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More Peanut Corp. Recalls After Dead Rodents Found at Texas Plant

Feb 13, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) has been forced to recall all items made at its Plainview, Texas plant after state health inspectors discovered gruesome conditions there.  The Plainview PCA plant was shut-down earlier this week because of possible salmonella contamination. As we reported earlier this month, this facility not licensed with health officials.  Despite having been in operation since 2005, it also had not been inspected until another PCA plant had been implicated in a massive salmonella outbreak.

Products made by a PCA plant in Georgia are at the center of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that has killed 9 and has sickened 636 people.  As we reported last month, recent  inspections of the Georgia plant found that PCA shipped peanuts that tested positive for salmonella contamination at least a dozen times in 2007 and 2008. At the time of that discovery, PCA officials told the Food & Drug Administration  (FDA) that those peanuts tested negative for the bacteria in a second round of testing.  But  the FDA reported last Friday that  PCA actually shipped some of the peanuts before the second tests were completed. Other lots were shipped without testing and, in some cases, no second test was performed even after the first one came back positive.

The Plainview plant, which was run by Plainview Peanut Co., a subsidiary of PCA, was shuttered Tuesday after the Texas State Health Department discovered possible salmonella contamination in products made there.  In a statement, the health department said no contaminated products were shipped from the Plainview facility.

Yesterday, the Texas Health Department ordered a recall of all products made in Plainview after its inspection found  dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area on Wednesday.  According to the Associated Press, the inspection found that the plant's air handling system was pulling debris from the infested crawl space into production areas.

Since the outbreak began, PCA, which provides ingredients to 85 other food firms, has recalled everything made at its Blakely, Georgia plant since January 2007.  More than 2000 products made by other firms, including the Kellogg Company and General Mills, have also been recalled. The recalls are so widespread that the FDA has even set up an online  database to help consumers track them.  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.

Last month, the Justice Department joined the FDA in a  criminal probe of PCA.  Earlier this week, the  FBI executed search warrants at the PCA Georgia plant and at its headquarters in Virginia.

PCA owner Stewart Parnell had been subpoenaed to testify at a  Congressional hearing earlier this week, and although he appeared, he invoked his constitutional right not to incriminate himself.

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