WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., last week called for the Department of Justice to investigate whether the behavior of the Peanut Corporation of America warrants criminal prosecution.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently concluded an inspection that found that during the past two years, the company at the center of the widespread peanut butter recall had identified some type of Salmonella about a dozen times as part of its own internal testing program. It subsequently released product after it was retested. In some cases, retesting was conducted by a separate laboratory.
Since PCA had failed to disclose these findings to regulatory authorities, it wasn't until last Wednesday that the recall was expanded to include all peanuts, both dry- and oil-roasted; granulated peanuts; peanut meal; and peanut butter made at PCA's Blakely, Ga., facility since Jan. 1, 2007.
More than 500 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium, which is also thought to have led to eight deaths.
“The actions by the Peanut Corporation of America can only be described as reprehensible and criminal,” DeLauro said in a prepared statement. “Not only did this company knowingly sell tainted products, it shopped for a laboratory that would provide the acceptable results they were seeking.”
Efforts to contact PCA for comment were unsuccessful last week.
According to the FDA, the inspection also identified a number of deficiencies related to PCA's cleaning procedures. Roaches, mold and a leaky roof were among the conditions observed by investigators, according to reports.
“Foods are supposed to be produced under conditions which will not render them injurious to health,” said Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.