Post-probe, problematic peanut paste products pulled

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Friday, January 30, 2009

In what the Food and Drug Administration is characterizing as one of the largest recalls in recent history, numerous types of products containing peanuts are being recalled in the United States. The FDA issued a recall on Wednesday on food items with peanut paste and other peanut products made after January 1, 2007 at a Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) center in Blakely, Georgia. The recall affects over 430 products containing peanut paste or peanut butter from the PCA plant.

U.S. federal inspectors stated salmonella was found in 12 instances at the plant. So far the incident has been linked to eight deaths, with over 500 individuals sickened from the tainted products.

U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has announced he will hold a Congressional hearing February 11 before the House Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate the matter. According to an FDA report, peanut products from the Georgia plant returned to the United States after being exported were prevented from reentering the country in September due to containing "filthy, putrid or decomposed substance, or is otherwise unfit for food," but the products were not tested by federal inspectors.

According to the FDA, peanut products were shipped from the PCA facility though the company knew they were contaminated. PCA asserted it was unaware products were contaminated before being shipped, and released a statement saying it had "taken extraordinary measures to identify and recall all products that have been identified as presenting a potential risk". The PCA plant has since been shut down after state and federal inspectors discovered mold, roaches, a leaky roof, and other issues at the facility.

Cquote1.svg If the FDA discovered that there was an issue with this product inspection, why didn't they follow up on it? Cquote2.svg

—Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)

Multiple members of Congress have made critical statements about the FDA regarding the incident. "The FDA failing to follow up after this incident, does that mean that products that are not good enough for a foreign country are still good enough for the USA?" said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

"If the FDA discovered that there was an issue with this product inspection, why didn't they follow up on it? Why didn't they take a closer look at this facility?" asked Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). Representative DeLauro called the actions of PCA "reprehensible and criminal".

Beth Falwell, daughter of PCA's founder Hugh Parnell, told WSLS-TV, the NBC affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia, in a statement Thursday that her brother Stewart Parnell who currently runs the company would not knowingly harm his customers. She believes the FDA report documenting poor conditions at the PCA facility contains inaccuracies. Stewart Parnell did not respond to repeated attempts by The News & Advance for a comment.

Consumers can find out more information at the website of the FDA,, which lists the peanut products affected. The FDA list of items containing recalled peanut products is 35 pages long. Individuals can also find out more information about the incident by calling the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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