Every Peanut Product From Ga. Plant Recalled
Thursday, January 29, 2009
In one of the largest food recalls in history, the Food and Drug Administration asked retailers, manufacturers and consumers yesterday to throw out every product made in the past two years from peanuts processed by a Georgia plant at the heart of a deadly nationwide outbreak of salmonella illness.
The action came after federal officials discovered this month that the company, Peanut Corporation of America, knowingly shipped products contaminated with salmonella 12 times in 2007 and 2008, prompting a congresswoman to call yesterday for a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.
Michael Rogers of the FDA said the company violated good manufacturing practices by selling peanut products that had tested positive for salmonella bacteria in inspections commissioned by the firm. He said it turned over records of its inspections only after the FDA invoked special authority given to it by Congress in 2002 under laws to prevent bioterrorism.
But Rogers would not say whether the company would face sanctions. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on whether the agency is evaluating the matter.
A spokesman for Peanut Corporation of America, based in Lynchburg, Va., has said that the company complied with all requests by regulators from "Day One" of their investigation.
"We have been devastated by this, and we have been working around the clock with the FDA to ensure any potentially unsafe products are removed from the market immediately," the company's president, Stewart Parnell, said last night in a written statement. The company also said that its goal "over the past 33 years has always been to follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's good manufacturing practices in order to provide a safe product for consumers."
The company's plant in Blakely, Ga., produces peanut butter, paste, meal and granules that are used in products including ice cream, snack crackers and dog biscuits. Since early this month, when federal investigators traced the salmonella contamination to the plant, more than 400 products made with peanut butter or paste from the facility were recalled. That represented products made with peanut ingredients handled by the plant since July 1.
But yesterday's move expands the recall to all peanut products that came out of the Blakely plant since Jan. 1, 2007. Federal officials said they do not know how many consumer products will be affected.
"We don't have a good idea right now in terms of how much of that product is still out there; it may have largely been consumed," said Stephen Sundlof, director of FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
Federal officials found four different strains of Salmonella enterica at the plant, raising questions about whether products besides peanut butter and paste may have been contaminated.
The outbreak of salmonella illness, which began in late summer and is ongoing, has been linked to eight deaths, including two in Virginia. In all, about 500 people in 43 states and Canada have become ill. About 22 percent were hospitalized, and about half of those affected are children.
Health officials said they will work with companies supplied by Peanut Corporation of America to continually update a recall list that is available on the FDA's Web site. The Web site details a long list of popular products that are affected, including candies, cookies, snack bars and snack mixes.