Salmonella Peanuts – FDA Serves Warrant
for Inspection of Westco Fruit and Nuts Inc. – Is this the future if
Recalls are Not Voluntary?
of Article: http://www.marlerblog.com/
For the last few weeks
the FDA and Westco Fruit
and Nuts Inc. (Westco/Westcott), have been "negotiating" on
whether a recall would be issued of Westco/Westcott peanut products.
Today the FDA dropped the hammer down. From the FDA Website:
At the request of the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration, U.S. Marshals today executed an inspection warrant
at Westco Fruit and Nuts Inc. (Westco/Westcott), an Irvington, N.J.-based
company. Westco/Westcott did not provide access to distribution documents
and declined to recall products after an FDA request. Regulated companies
are required by law to grant FDA entry for inspection, as well as provide
access to distribution records. The FDA does not have authority to compel
companies to recall food products, such as peanuts. The company,
which produces and distributes peanuts and peanut products, received
peanuts and peanut product from the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), a
Georgia company that recalled products in January due to concerns of
Salmonella contamination. Despite PCA's effort to remove the affected
product from the market and FDA's intervention, Westco/Westcott has refused
to recall its products.
enforcement action against Westco Fruit and Nuts is an appropriate step
toward removing potentially harmful products from the marketplace,
especially when, as in this case, a company is unwilling to share
information FDA needs to ensure food safety," said Michael Chappell,
the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. "The
FDA uses all appropriate legal means necessary to obtain information and
fully investigate firms or individuals who put the health of consumers at
risk." On March 23, 2009, the FDA formally requested
Westco/Westcott to initiate a recall of all of its products containing
peanuts from PCA because such products may be contaminated with Salmonella.
On March 26, 2009, the FDA also issued a formal notice to Westco/Westcott
requesting access to certain records concerning the distribution of PCA
peanut containing products. The company declined both requests.
Investigations by the FDA
and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified products from
PCA's Blakely, Ga., facility as a source of the current Salmonella
Typhimurium outbreak. These efforts led to PCA's recall of peanuts and
peanut-derived products. Between Nov. 19, 2008, and Dec. 30, 2008,
Westco/Westcott received three shipments of Oil Roasted Salted Redskin
Jumbo Peanuts from PCA's Georgia facility. Westco/Westcott sold these
peanuts in various size/packaging configurations and also used them as an
ingredient in a variety of mixed nut products and trail mix produced
between Nov. 19, 2008, and early February 2009. On Feb. 9, 2009, New
Jersey officials executed an embargo action at Westco/Westcott's
distribution facility to prevent the company from further distributing
potentially contaminated peanuts or peanut-derived products in the
Last week ABC
federal official said Moradi [Westco/Westcott] "ran away and hid"
when government inspectors showed up at his plant. Moradi acknowledged
hiding from FDA inspectors but said it was because they had repeatedly
visited him and staked out his plant, and he was frightened.
"I was intimidated," Moradi said. "I was scared of
Moradi described Westco as "a tiny little business" with annual
sales of a little more than $1 million.
"These people are basically doing it to cover their a**. FDA is doing
this to cover their a**," he said. "For seven years, they did not
do inspections [at the PCA plant in Georgia] and now at the cost of a tiny
little small business they are coming, and they are forcing me and they
have no proof. "
The real question is
whether if FDA had recall authority if companies would fight the recall and
drag out the battle like Westco/Westcott has done? The reality is
that the "voluntary" recall system has worked quite well over the
years. There have been only a handful of folks like Westco/Westcott
who refuse to put public health before profits.