PCA Not Required to Report Salmonella Contamination at PlantJan 30, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Most states do not require food producers to alert health regulators when testing reveals food borne contaminants at production plants, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. The news is adding another element to the ongoing and massive peanut butter salmonella scandal that has claimed eight fatalities, sickened hundreds, affected nearly every state and Canada, and involves four different strains of salmonella.
The news broke as a result of information obtained from the federal probe into the deadly outbreak that is sweeping across North America. Yesterday, Bloomberg News reported that according to U.S. health officials, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA)—the sole source of the contamination—shipped its peanut butter products on 12 different occasions in 2007 and 2008 following tests proving the products were tainted with the dangerous, sometimes deadly germ. Apparently, after receiving confirmation of the presence of salmonella in its products, PCA hired other laboratories to conduct additional tests, but actually continued to supply its products to customers according to Michael Rogers, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director of field investigations, said Bloomberg.
According to the AP, the legal loophole that enabled PCA to keep its contamination quiet on a dozen occasions has lawmakers, consumer advocates, and food safety experts up in arms. Representative John Dingell from Michigan told Reuters, "Americans shouldn't have to worry about whether the food they serve their families and the medical products they use to improve their health might actually make them sick.”
Earlier this week democratic lawmakers on the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee introduced legislation to increase government inspections of food and drug manufacturing plants, reported Reuters. According to Reuters, the bill would require food producers and drug makers to pay the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fees in order to assist with the increased inspections. Other investigations into FDA processes and operations, said Reuters, have found the agency unable to manage the inspections needed to keep America’s food and drug supply adequately protected.
The bill would also require domestic and foreign food facilities to be inspected at least once every four years and drug manufacturing plants every two years. One exception would be if the FDA is able to justify that more infrequent inspections are needed, said Reuters. The bill would also increase FDA authority that includes its ability to order mandatory recalls, said Reuters.
The outbreak has sickened over 500 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and although the FDA finally issued a violation notice against PCA based on inspection of its Blakely plant, which began on January 9, the FDA did not inspect the Georgia plant during 2007 and 2008, reported Bloomberg yesterday. Inspections were conducted by Georgia state officials under contract with the FDA. According to Scientific American, Rogers said that PCA did not clean its Blakely, Georgia plant or otherwise take steps to minimize the tainting of is other products.