Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Peanut Saga Continues

Salmonella-tainted peanut products from the Georgia plant of Virginia-based Peanut Corporation of America has resulted in 575 illnesses in 43 states and 8 deaths.

Peanut Corp. found salmonella in its products 12 times in 2007 and 2008, but sold them anyway. The company has been implicated to have knowingly sent out tainted food to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which potentially affects those who needed help in Kentucky after the ice storms last month, and more than 30 truckloads of possibly contaminated peanut products were also sent to school lunch programs in California, Minnesota, and Idaho in late 2007.

As a result, the U.S. Dept of Agriculture (USDA) has dropped all contracts with the company and it is barred from federal contracts for the next year . The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation to determine what illegal actions, if any, were committed by Peanut Corp. of America. The company's chief executive has also been stripped of his role on a USDA advisory board on peanut quality standards. This has also opened up a debate on the role of the Food and Drug Administration and how the plant passed inspections.

Currently, more than 1000 products have been recalled because they might contain tainted peanut paste or peanut products from the Georgia plant. The FDA has a twitter feed for recalls, a health and human services blog reports peanut butter-specific recalls, and there's a widget plus full listing at the FDA website.

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