Peanut Butter Problems Linked to Plant with History of Sanitary Violations

The New York Times reports that the Georgia manufacturing plant linked to nationwide peanut butter problems that have sickened over 500 people, has a long history of citations for sanitary violations and poor cleanliness standards.

All of the peanut butter recalls issued this month for large tubs of peanut butter sold to nursing homes, hospitals and other food service institutions, as well as peanut butter crackers, cookies, ice cream and other consumer products, have been linked back to salmonella contamination originating at a peanut processing plant in Blakely, Georgia, which is owned and operated by Peanut Corporation of America.

Inspection reports obtained by the New York Times indicate that the plant was repeatedly cited over the past three years for problems like having dirt buildup throughout the plant, grease residue, dirty surfaces, areas of rust that could fall into food, gaps in doors and other issues that could lead to food contamination.

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The records were obtained from the Georgia State Agriculture Department under the state’s open-records act.

Following a 2007 peanut butter recall issued by Con Agra Foods for jars of Peter Pan and Wal-Mart brand peanut butter manufactured at a different plant in Georgia, health officials determined that the salmonella contamination was caused by maintenance problems at the facility. Water-leakage from the roof and a faulty sprinkler system, combined with poor plant design and inadequate testing procedures were identified as the cause of that nationwide food poisoning outbreak that sickened over 625 people.

For the current peanut butter salmonella outbreak, the latest numbers provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that since January 8, 2009, 501 cases of food poisoning have been reported involving the same strain of salmonella found in the contaminated peanut butter produced at the Peanut Corporation of America plant.

Over the weekend, officials from the Minnesota Department of Health confirmed the seventh death in the United States involving the strain of salmonella linked to the peanut butter problems.


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