Peanut Corporation of America Fails to Fulfill Recall OrderFeb 23, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP In the face of a massive salmonella outbreak, dozens of lawsuits, a criminal investigation, bankruptcy filings, FBI search warrants, plant closures, and Congressionally-urged criminal charges, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) has not carried out a recall order, reports the Associated Press (AP). PCA’s recent negligence—just the latest in a string of inept, dangerous, careless, and avaricious behaviors—has forced the state of Texas to fulfill the recall order and contact customers directly, said the AP.
PCA filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy on February 7, which means it will liquidate its assets to repay creditors. Authorities recently closed PCA’s Texas plant and the Virginia plant—the only plant not linked to salmonella. The Plainview, Texas plant closure prompted the Texas Department of Health to issue a recall order for everything ever produced there, said the AP. The recall followed the discovery of revolting conditions, including dead rodents, rodent excrement, and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area. Prior to the outbreak, the plant was never licensed and never inspected, but was operating since 2005.
Last month, inspections of the Georgia plant revealed that PCA shipped peanuts that tested positive for salmonella contamination at least a dozen times in 2007 and 2008. At that, PCA officials told the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that those peanuts tested negative for the bacteria in a second round of testing; however, the FDA learned PCA actually shipped some peanuts before the second round was completed. Other lots were shipped without testing and, in some cases, a second test was not performed, even after the first came back positive. Those inspections also turned up mold, roaches, and a leaking roof.
The Virginia facility was found to have flaking paint and evidence of rodents in 2007 and 2008. The PCA promised to fix the problems, reported the AP in an earlier article; however, when inspectors returned a second time in 2008 to ensure this was done, they found two dead mice in traps in a warehouse, as well as an open door, and a 32-inch-wide gap in strip curtains “completely exposed to the entrance of pests,” said the AP. Mold was also found on the outside of 43 totes of blanched peanuts.
The outbreak prompted one of the largest—if not the largest—recalls in history, has sickened over 600 in 44 states and Canada, is linked to nine deaths, has resulted in thousands of recalls by hundreds of companies, and is the cause of business failure to at least one company. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half of those sickened have been children.
In a prior report, the Christian Science Monitor said that Georgia officials are weighing whether or not to charge Stewart Parnell, PCA owner, with manslaughter, if federal authorities choose not to do so. Meanwhile, in a room full of angry investigators and government officials and the devastated family members of some of the deceased and sickened, Parnell refused to answer House questions in a recent hearing, continually invoking his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself, until he was finally excused. Parnell is accused of placing profits over safety and of ordering his staff to ship products which should have been discarded based on initial confirmations of salmonella contamination, not once, but at least one dozen times in just two years.