Peanut Salmonella Company’s Texas Plant Had No License

The Associated Press (AP) broke with news today that a peanut processing plant in Texas run by the <"">Peanut Corporation of America (PCA)—the Georgia-based company to blame for the massive salmonella outbreak that has plagued North America with sicknesses, deaths, and recalls—operated for years without inspections and with no license.

The AP reported that PCA’s Plainview, Texas plant was never inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until news broke about the current contamination and that once inspected, it did not reveal salmonella, but did confirm that the Texas plant operated without a license to do so for over three years.

The salmonella outbreak was traced to the Blakely, Georgia plant, reported the AP, where inspectors discovered—in addition to the highly publicized records indicating many instances of salmonella contamination there—roaches, mold, and a leaking roof.

Inspector Patrick Moore of Texas’ Department of State Health Services was dispatched to the Plainview Peanut Co. LLC plant and confirmed that it was neither inspected nor licensed with health officials, said the AP, which noted that the plant has been in operation since March 2005.  “I was not aware this plant was in operation and did not know (what) type of products (sic) processed,” Moore wrote in an inspection report obtained by AP.  The AP reported that the Texas plant blanches, dry roasts, oil-roasts, and chops peanuts disbursed to food companies nationwide.

The PCA plant located in Georgia linked to the nationwide salmonella outbreak is now also the subject of a criminal probe.  The investigation by the U.S. Justice Department was initiated after FDA inspectors learned that PCA sold peanut products to food makers after testing positive for salmonella.  The salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter, peanut paste, and other peanut ingredients has sickened over 500 people in 43 states, and may have contributed to the deaths of eight people.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), illnesses were first reported in September 2008.

Yesterday, in an interview on the Today Show with Matt Lauer, President Barack Obama said he was ordering a “complete review” of the FDA.  Obama discussed how this recent scandal was only just the most recent in an array of “instances over the last several years” in which “the FDA has not been able to catch some of these things as quickly as I expect them to catch,” reported Today.  The FDA has long been criticized for a wide variety of issues, conflicts, and failures, with the recent, highly publicized peanut butter debacle causing outrage nationwide.

USA Today said that, last week, PCA expanded its recall to include two years’ worth of production and included peanuts and peanut meal, among other products, to the standing peanut butter and paste recall.  Over 800 products have been recalled, it said, making it one of the largest recalls in history.

The Boston Globe reported that well before this outbreak, the FDA received a report of a PCA shipment that was rejected in Canada and returned to the United States because is was severely contaminated with metal fragments.  The FDA should have immediately ordered an investigation and didn’t.

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