Peanut Corp. of America files for bankruptcy; peanut butter = high risk?

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2/18/2009-According to an Associated Press article, Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Virginia on Feb. 13. Companies file for Chapter 7 to liquidate their assets and distribute the proceeds to creditors. PCA said in the filing that its debt and assets both ranged between $1–10 million. The peanut processing company’s Blakely, Ga. facility is at the heart of the national Salmonella outbreak that has sickened more than 630 people, may have caused nine deaths, and has led to more than 2,000 product recalls. A second plant in Plainview, Texas was closed at the beginning of Feb. after preliminary tests came back positive for possible Salmonella contamination.

In addition, the government is putting together a criminal investigation into the case, and more than a dozen civil lawsuits have been filed. On Feb. 11, PCA President Stewart Parnell refused to answer questions put to him by the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

According to an MSNBC article, PCA is not the only organization feeling the pressure surrounding the outbreak. During Feb. 11’s hearing, Stephen Sundlof, Director Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the Food and Drug Administration, told lawmakers that agency inspectors will start to routinely collect samples for bacterial testing whenever they go into a facility. Currently, that’s only done if officials suspect a problem. In addition, Sundlof said the government is weighing whether to designate peanut butter as a high-risk food. This would mean producers would be required to follow written food safety plans to prevent contamination. The plans would include proper roasting to kill Salmonella, keeping finished products away from raw peanuts, and making sure the factory roof doesn’t leak—since Salmonella thrives in moisture.

Associated Press article

MSNBC article

Congressional testimony Feb. 11 by Sundlof



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