Sat, Feb 14, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Texas orders recall of peanut products in salmonella scare

HEALTH RISK The plant in the town of Plainview had been unlicensed for nearly four years and had not been inspected by the health authorities


Texas health officials on Thursday ordered the recall of peanut products from a plant operated by the company at the center of a national salmonella outbreak, days after tests indicated the likely presence of the bacteria there.

All products originating from the Peanut Corp of America plant in Plainview were recalled regardless of production date.

“The order was issued after dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers were discovered yesterday in a crawl space above a production area during an in-depth Department of State Health Services inspection,” the agency said in a statement.

“The inspection also found that the plant’s air handling system was not completely sealed and was pulling debris from the infested crawl space into production areas of the plant, resulting in the adulteration of exposed food products,” the statement said.

The recalls from the plant, which operated unlicensed and uninspected for nearly four years, are the latest bad news for the company being investigated in connection with an outbreak that has sickened 600 people and may have caused at least nine deaths.

More than 2,000 possibly contaminated consumer products have already been recalled in one in one of the largest product recalls ever.

Federal investigators last month identified a Georgia peanut processing plant operated by Peanut Corp as the source of the salmonella outbreak.

The federal government has opened a criminal investigation into the company, and its president, Stewart Parnell, repeatedly refused to answer questions on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, which is seeking ways to prevent another outbreak.

The committee had subpoenaed him for questioning about the outbreak.

The salmonella outbreak traced to the company’s plant in Blakely, Georgia, has scared Americans away from a household food and brought the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under intense scrutiny.

Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat, said he had been alarmed to hear about the conditions at the second plant.

“More alarming is the concern that there could be hundreds or even thousands of food processing facilities operating in this country that have never been inspected by the FDA, just as this plant has been doing since March 2005,” Stupak said in a statement.

The FDA has asked Congress for more powers and more resources to inspect food facilities.

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