An FDA inspection of a Georgia food facility has revealed that the company at the center of a nationwide salmonella outbreak investigation likely knowingly shipped contaminated peanut products. The investigation -- and the hundreds of peanut product recalls it has spawned -- has prompted Congress to call for hearings on the outbreak that has sickened more than 500 people and caused at least eight deaths.
The FDA inspection report released Wednesday details a number of questionable practices at the Peanut Corporation of America processing plant in Blakely, Georgia. The report identifies at least 10 instances in which batches of peanut paste, peanut butter, and chopped peanuts tested positive for salmonella contamination, were subsequently retested until negative results came back, and then were shipped to food distributors and resellers. According to the New York Times, citing a George Washington University food safety expert and members of the FDA's inspection team, "[i]t is illegal for a company to continue testing a product until it gets a clean test," and "the company’s tests showing salmonella contamination should have led the company to take actions to eliminate the contamination."
The FDA's inspection also revealed numerous health code violations and questionable practices at the Georgia plant, including the presence of mold in the facility and improper food storage practices. Newsday reports that a congressional committee chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) will hold hearings on the peanut product contamination and related salmonella outbreak, begininning on February 11.