Lab tests show possible salmonella at Texas plant
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ATLANTA (AP) — Private lab tests show there may have been salmonella at a
second plant operated by the peanut company at the center of a national
outbreak, but the potentially tainted products were not sent to consumers, Texas health officials
The Peanut Corp. of America
temporarily closed its plant in Plainview,
Texas, Monday night at the
request of health officials after the tests found "the possible presence
of salmonella" in some of its products, the Texas Department of Health
said in a statement.
plant produces peanut meal, granulated peanuts and dry roasted peanuts. Texas state health
officials said that possibly contaminated peanut meal and granulated peanuts
had not been sent to customers. Potentially contaminated dry roasted peanuts
were shipped to a distributor, but were caught before reaching the public,
state officials said.
The company is being investigated in connection with an outbreak that has
sickened 600 people and may have caused at least eight deaths. More than
1,840 possibly contaminated consumer products have been recalled.
Peanut Corp. closed its plant in Blakely, Ga., last month
after federal investigators identified that facility as the source of the
salmonella outbreak. Company spokeswoman Amy Rotenberg did not immediately
return a call seeking comment Tuesday.
The Texas closing came a day after the
FBI raided the company's plant in Georgia, hauling off boxes and
other material. Agents executed search warrants at both the plant and at
Peanut Corp.'s headquarters in Lynchburg,
Va., according to a senior
congressional aide with knowledge of the raids. The official spoke only on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the
During their investigation at the Georgia plant, Food and Drug
Administration inspectors found roaches, mold, a leaking roof and other
sanitation problems. They also found two strains of salmonella. Though different
from the outbreak strain, the discovery of the bacteria at the plant signalled a hole in food safety.
The FDA said last week the company knowingly shipped salmonella-laced
products from the Georgia
plant after tests showed the products were contaminated. Federal law forbids
producing or shipping foods under conditions that could make it harmful to
FDA spokeswoman Susan Cruzan said the agency is still investigating the Plainview facility. It
was not immediately known if the discovery would lead to broader product
recalls. Cruzan said the FDA is searching records to see where products from
plant may have been distributed.
"The FDA has collected its own samples and is awaiting lab
results," Cruzan said. Initially, agency officials had indicated that
the salmonella problems seemed to be limited to Peanut Corp.'s Georgia
An Associated Press investigation last week revealed that the Texas plant,
which opened in March 2005 and was run by a subsidiary, Plainview Peanut Co.,
operated uninspected and unlicensed by state health officials until after the
company came under investigation last month by the Food and Drug
Doug McBride, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services,
said Peanut Corp. agreed to shut the plant voluntarily as it works with the
Plainview Mayor John Anderson said Tuesday the Texas plant employed about 30 people. It
was not immediately clear how they would be affected by the suspension.
"I'm just very sorry to hear that," Plainview Mayor John
Anderson said Tuesday when a reporter called with news of the suspension.
"Hopefully it's just a temporary suspension. That'd be the best of all
The company, which also operates a small plant under the name Tidewater Blanching
in Suffolk, Va., sold its peanut butter to
institutional clients, such as nursing homes, and its peanut paste to many
other companies that used it as an ingredient in products ranging from
cookies and ice cream to energy bars and pet treats. While the company
initially said its products weren't sold directly to consumers, it said
Sunday that some were sold directly to discount retailers.
Food safety attorney Bill Marler, one of several
attorneys who have filed civil lawsuits against the company since the
outbreak started, said it was the latest disturbing turn for Peanut Corp.
"It is clear that PCA is not a producer that companies could — or can
— rely on for a safe product," he said.
Associated Press Writers
Brett Blackledge and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington,
Greg Bluestein in Atlanta and Betsy Blaney in Lubbock,
Texas contributed to this