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Workers: Rodents Common At PCA Plant

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, February 04, 2009 1:13 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Peanut Butter, Salmonella, FDA, CDC, Food Borne Illness, Public Health


IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons / Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich / Drew17

Peanut Corp. of America is the target of a federal investigation over salmonella-contaminated products that have sickened more than 500 people across 43 states and eight deaths.

Last week, InjuryBoard reported that federal officials released a detailed inspection report outlining the unsanitary conditions found at PCA’s Georgia plant – including mold and roaches – and confirmed the company shipped peanut products despite knowing the products were contaminated with salmonella.

Three former employees offer a glimpse into the day-to-day sanitation lapses at the plant, reports the AJC.

“It was dirty and nasty all over,” said James, who worked in the shipping department at the plant. "He recalls opening a tote of peanuts and seeing baby mice in it."

Terry Jones, a who worked as a janitor, recalls peanut oil left to soak into the floor and a leaky roof.

And James Griffin, a cook at the plant, said, “I never ate the products and I wouldn't let my kids eat them.”

PCA produces three percent of all peanut products sold nationwide. More than 100 recalls covering 900 products – from candy bars and ice cream to dog snacks – have been affected by the outbreak.

The recall highlights the agency’s ongoing troubles in protecting the nation’s food supply, says AJC. Due to the agency being understaffed, they have turned food inspections over to the state. But, watchdog groups say many states are not properly equipped to monitor facilities where food products are processed, manufactured or stored.

The Associated Press recently reported that a second PCA plant, in Texas, was able to operate unlicensed and uninspected for years until the company fell under investigation by FDA.

PCA, a family-owned business, said last week that it did not agree with FDA findings and that the company has taken measures to correct the problems.

Ongoing Problems

Georgia state inspectors found repeated unsanitary conditions at the plant from 2006 to 2008, which included food buildup, grease and gaps in doors that allowed access for rodents to enter.

In January, health officials in Minnesota tested a jar of peanut butter from a nursing home and discovered salmonella. The products were traced back to PCA, prompting health inspectors to investigate the Georgia plant.

According to the FDA inspection report, PCA knew a sample of peanut paste tested positive for salmonella Typhimurium. The company retested the sample and -- after it came back negative for salmonella -- shipped the peanut butter paste.

“The plant was running tests for their own information, but it was ignoring positive results for salmonella,” food safety director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Caroline Smith DeWaal, said. #

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