Peanut Butter

by JASON | 5:26 PM in |

(NaturalNews) It has just been released by federal officials that the Georgia peanut plant linked to a salmonella outbreak shipped out contaminated peanut butter knowingly twelve times in the past two years. This current outbreak has killed eight people and affected over 500 others.

Because of a 2007 outbreak at a facility in Georgia that makes Peter Pan peanut butter, food safety experts learned that salmonella bacteria can lie dormant in peanut butter and become active when ingested.

The FDA and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have been investigating this most recent salmonella outbreak and have recently found that the Peanut Corporation of America detected salmonella in internal tests twelve times in 2007 and 2008. Sometimes they received positive salmonella results from different laboratories. Despite these positive detections, however, their products were sold.

The peanut products made at the company's Georgia plant are not sold directly to the public. They are utilized by other food manufacturers for making cookies, crackers, bars, cereal, candy, ice cream, and dog food. Some of the largest food manufacturers have now recalled over 100 products believed to be made with tainted ingredients.

Federal investigators have also now stated that four strains of salmonella have been detected at the Georgia plant. One strain was found from the floor near a restroom. The outbreak has now spread to 43 states and Canada and is ongoing. Approximately half the people sickened have been children.

Though Peanut Corporation of America was not required to inform regulators about its internal salmonella tests, it appears that the company violated federal law because foods are required to be produced under conditions that do not harm health.

Whether the company will face criminal charges has not yet been determined. Stewart Parnell, the company's owner and president, has not issued any statements. The company has e-mailed a statement, however, stating that it "has cooperated fully with FDA from day one during the course of this investigation. We have shared with them every record that they have asked for that is in our possession and we will continue to do so."

The company halted production at the plant involved when the FDA confirmed it was the source of the current outbreak. FDA officials have given the company the freedom to restart production, but first the company will have to address a list of manufacturing deficiencies. This list will be released to the public as well.

FDA officials have not determined how the plant was contaminated or how the bacteria contaminated the peanut products. State inspection records have shown a pattern of unsanitary conditions over several years, however. Inspectors flagged the situations, but every time it was only determined that routine follow-up was warranted. Peanut Corporation of America was never closed by the state or penalized in any way.

The FDA never actually inspected this plant. This duty fell to the Georgia Department of Agriculture under a contract because the FDA says it does not have the staff necessary to visit every domestic food production facility in the US.

The last inspected of the Georgia plants by state inspectors occurred in October, 2008. This was during the time that the contaminated products were being produced, according to inspection records. No tests were performed to test the factory or the products for salmonella during this inspection.

The federal agency has said it does not have enough inspectors to visit the country's 65,520 domestic food production facilities. In fiscal 2008, it inspected 5,930 plants.

But they did not test either the factory or the peanut products for salmonella. "We do pull product samples from time to time, but we can only run 4,500 samples in a year, and we have 16,000 food-processing and food-sales stores in the state," said Oscar Garrison, Georgia's assistant agriculture commissioner for consumer protection.

The average plant is inspected once every 10 years," Halloran said. "This one was getting inspected a couple of times a year by Georgia, but neither they nor the FDA were taking enough enforcement action."

Salmonella bacteria can cause an infection that often produces diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps within 12 to 72 hours. The illness usually lasts four to seven days. While most people recover without treatment, infants, elderly people and those with compromised immune systems can develop severe illness that can be fatal if not promptly treated with antibiotics.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Lynchburg, Va. (January 28, 2009) – Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) is voluntarily recalling all peanuts and peanut products processed in its Blakely, Georgia facility since Jan. 1, 2007. Previously, PCA announced a recall of peanut butter and peanut paste. PCA sells its products to institutional and industrial users for service in large institutions or for sale and further processing by other companies. PCA does not sell peanuts or peanut products directly to consumers in stores.

The expanded recall includes all peanuts (dry and oil roasted), granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter and peanut paste. All of the recalled peanuts and peanut products were made only at the company’s Blakely, Georgia facility; the lot numbers and a description of the products being recalled are listed at the end of this release. The Blakely, Georgia facility has stopped producing all peanut products.

Because some of our peanut products have been used by manufacturers of pet food, we are also alerting the public that Salmonella is an organism that can potentially be transferred to people handling pet treats exposed to Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products. Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Well animals can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

The recalled peanuts and peanut products were distributed nationwide to institutions, food service industries, and private label food companies as well as and in Canada, Haiti, Korea and Trinidad.