Salmonella Count Now at 666Feb 25, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP The peanut salmonella outbreak linked to ingredients made by a Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) manufacturing facility in Blakely, Georgia plant has now sickened more than 600 people. Meanwhile, health officials have confirmed that salmonella found at a second PCA plant in Texas was also tied to the nationwide salmonella outbreak.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tainted PCA products have sickened 666 people across the country. Cases of salmonella poisoning - including 9 deaths - related to the outbreak strain have been reported in 44 states and Canada. The CDC also said that 19 clusters of infections in five states have been reported in schools, long-term care facilities and hospitals. King Nut brand peanut butter - which was made by PCA - was present in all facilities.
King Nut brand peanut butter was among the first products recalled last month because of salmonella contamination. But because PCA makes peanut paste, peanut butter and other ingredients for 85 other firms, hundreds of other recalls soon followed. Those recalls now exceed 2000.
At first, the salmonella outbreak was traced to PCA's plant in Blakely, Georgia, resulting in its closure. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) inspections last month found that the company knowingly shipped products from that plant that had tested positive for salmonella. Emails revealed at a Congressional hearing showed that PCA owner Stewart Parnell had repeatedly urged his employees to do so.
Earlier this month, Texas health officials closed a PCA plant in Plainview after finding horrible conditions there, including dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area. Apparently, the plant’s air handling system was pulling debris from the infested crawl space into production areas.
As we reported at the time, this facility was not licensed with health officials. Despite having been in operation since 2005, it also had not been inspected until the PCA plant in Georgia had been implicated in the salmonella outbreak.
The Texas inspection also revealed salmonella contamination there, and the bacteria found at Plainview was eventually tied to six cases of salmonella poisoning in Colorado. Now, the CDC has confirmed that the Texas salmonella strain is the same one implicated in the nationwide outbreak.
Texas health officials ordered everything from the PCA Plainview plant recalled last week. However, the health department was forced to issue the recall action itself after PCA was slow to do so.
PCA is now the focus of a criminal probe being conducted by the US Justice Department. Earlier this month, the company filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy. A statement from PCA’s attorney blamed the fallout from the salmonella scandal for the filing.