Subjects: Public health
Federal officials said last week that Peanut Corporation of America, the Georgia firm at ground zero of the salmonella outbreak that has killed 8 and sickened 500 in 43 states and Canada, knowingly distributed contaminated peanut butter a dozen times in the last 2 years.
According to investigators from the FDA and CDC, company-sponsored tests on outgoing products from the Blakely, Georgia plant were positive for the pathogen 12 times since 2007.
PCA shipped the products anyway, occasionally after receiving a clean report from an independent laboratory.
Food producers don’t have to disclose the results of internal testing, so regulators were clueless until after the pigeons flew the coop, the Washington Post reported.
Until closing the plant and then filing for bankruptcy in the aftermath of the fiasco, PCA sold peanut butter and paste produced at the Blakely plant to companies that make candies, cereal, cookies, crackers, cookies, energy bars, and ice cream.
The FDA and PCA have recalled 2,000 possibly tainted products so far. Peanut butter sold in supermarkets appears to be clean.
Remarkably, until the outbreak the woefully understaffed FDA had never set foot inside the Blakely facility.
State inspectors did visit Blakely last October, right when the tainted products were being made. Alas, they didn’t test for salmonella.
Why, the Post wanted to know?
“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,” Oscar Garrison, a Georgia consumer protection official answered reassuringly.
Even the Big O was outraged.
“That’s what Sasha eats for lunch,” Obama told Matt Lauer. “Probably 3 times a week. I don’t want to worry about whether she’s going to get sick as a consequence of eating her lunch.”