Inspection reports from the Blakely, Georgia peanut plant that is the source of a nationwide salmonella outbreak, show it was cited repeatedly for dirty surfaces and health concerns.
The New York Times obtained Georgia Agriculture Department inspection reports and found:
* Areas of rust near food that could flake into vats
* Gaps in warehouse doors large enough for a rodent to pass through
* Unmarked spray bottles near food
* An earlier inspection found salmonella in floor cracks near a wash room and near food pallets
* CNN reports that mildew was found on a ceiling last year during an inspection
* The food contact surfaces were not properly cleaned and sanitized
* The transfer belt moving roasted peanuts was not properly sanitized
* Peanut butter buckets were left opened and uncovered
None of the violations tested positive for salmonella.
The plant is owned by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) of Lynchburg, Virginia. It has been shut down and 50 workers there are laid off.
PCA tells CNN the problems are, “relatively minor and for the most part corrected on site.”
The state of Georgia inspects the plant on behalf of the Food and Drug Administration as part of a contract with the federal agency.
Consumers are advised not to eat peanut products that have been recalled and throw them away products after the Blakely plant launched a nationwide recall of peanut butter and peanut paste made there after July 1, 2008. The case count is now up to 501 people sickened with salmonella in 43 states. The last reported illness began on January 8th.
The CDC reports that although there is a two to three week lag in reporting, the outbreak appears to have reached a peak in December and is now in decline.
The American Peanut Council, a trade group, wants to remind consumers on its Web site that many peanut products are not affected by the peanut product recall and it provides a list.
To check on the latest products included in the recall visit the FDA’s site of products.
The head of the Food and Drug Administration is yet to be appointed by President Obama but will need to deal with the growing complexity of food inspections.
Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, and reported to be on the short list to become FDA head - said food inspection is swamped by the FDA's other responsibilities: the approval of medications and medical devices.
Nissen is a physician and activist who doesn’t mind going up against drug companies and flawed medications. He led the debate of Vioxx, and helped reveal the drug could cause heart attacks, which eventually led to the drug’s recall.
Howard Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chief is said to be another candidate in consideration as is Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the Baltimore Health Commissioner who raised awareness about the dangers of children’s over-the-counter cold medications.
Meanwhile, Frank Torti, an academic cancer researcher, is acting FDA Commissioner. #