FDA joins criminal investigation into Peanut
Source of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Quality-Safety/FDA-joins-criminal-investigation-into-Peanut-Corporation-salmonella
By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 02-Feb-2009
The US Food and
Drug Administration joined the Justice Department on Friday in a criminal
investigation of the PCA, the manufacturer at the center
of a salmonella outbreak which has sickened 529 people and may have caused
The announcement follows
the revelation last week that the Peanut Corporation of America knew
some of its peanut products were contaminated with salmonella
prior to distributing them.
Speaking in a
teleconference with reporters, the FDA’s Stephen Sundlof said: “The FDA’s
office of criminal investigation is involved with a justice department
investigation of PCA.” However, Sundlof
declined to give further details of the case.
Meanwhile, the Energy
and Commerce Committee has announced plans for its Oversight Subcommittee to
hold a hearing on February 11 in order to examine what went wrong at the
plant, as well as what the FDA
and industry can do to prevent further outbreaks.
Chairman of the
Committee Rep. Henry A. Waxman said in a statement: “The situation at the
plant is alarming. It shows major gaps in our food safety system. I am
extremely troubled by reports that the plant tested positive for salmonella
numerous times but nothing was done to ensure that the product did not go on
has declined to comment on the FDA’s involvement in
the criminal investigation, but issued a statement which said: “For Peanut
Corporation to engage in any discussion of the facts at this point is
State officials have
found widespread salmonella contamination and food safety violations at the PCA’s Blakely,
plant, which has since been closed. Prior to the Salmonella typhimurium outbreak, the plant had not been inspected by
the FDA since 2001, although Georgia
state officials had visited three times.
PCA extended its
last week to include all peanut products manufactured at the plant since
January 1 2007, as FDA officials revealed they had found four separate
strains of salmonella. The recall had previously only included peanut butter
and peanut paste produced at the plant since July 1 2008.
Over 400 products have
now been recalled, and the list of products affected continues to expand, now
said to include some “boutique” brands of peanut butter, such as those ground
in-store, although the FDA said that it still does not consider major-brand
jars of peanut butter bought in grocery stores to be affected. In a
teleconference with reporters, Sundlof said that
the product recall was “among the largest recalls that we have had.”
He also said that a
shipment of chopped peanuts from the PCA had been rejected by Canadian
authorities last April, after it was found to be contaminated with metal
shavings. The PCA had been unable to decontaminate the shipment, he said, so
it was destroyed in November, in order to prevent the tainted food from
entering the food supply chain.
The current salmonella
outbreak is ongoing. So far, 116 people have been hospitalized, and of the
eight deaths that have been linked to the strain, the FDA said that all have
been aged 59 or over.