Peanut processor knowingly shipped contaminated products

Following the recent nationwide salmonella outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration inspected the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) plant in Blakely, Georgia. The FDA's findings are more than a little disturbing.

The FDA says that there are records of at least 12 instances where PCA officials identified salmonella either in their ingredients or finished products, yet the PCA took no steps to clean up or decontaminate these products, and shipped them anyway. This begs the question -- why have inspectors anyway?

Any products that tested positive for salmonella should have been destroyed immediately, but instead, the PCA sent many of these samples off to a different laboratory for secondary tests, and then shipped the products when these tests came back clean -- but experts say that these retests could have easily missed detecting the salmonella.

Prior to the FDA's investigation, state inspectors had reported problems with the way the plant was cleaned. The stunning negligence in this case has led to over 500 reported cases of salmonella sickness, and is believed to be responsible for eight deaths. In most cases, salmonella poisoning will lead to severe diarrhea, bloody stool, and general discomfort for up to a week or so, but in children and the elderly, and those with weaker immune systems, salmonella can be fatal.

The PCA sold their peanut butter in bulk, so the jars that you buy at the grocery store are safe, but the peanut paste made at the PCA plant is used in hundreds of products. The FDA's website has a list of all the products being recalled as a result of the salmonella outbreak. It's not just peanut butter -- lots of snack foods contain peanut paste.

An FDA spokesman says that the PCA absolutely broke the law (well, duh), but the question of criminal activity remains to be settled.
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