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666 Sickened by Tainted Peanut Corp. Products

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At least 666  people have been sickened by salmonella-tainted peanut products made by Peanut Corp. of America (PCA).  PCA is now the focus of a criminal probe being conducted by the US Justice Department.   Earlier this month, the company filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy.  A statement from PCA’s attorney blamed the fallout from the salmonella scandal for the filing.

At first, the salmonella outbreak was traced to PCA’s plant in Blakely, Georgia, resulting in its closure and a recall of all ingredients made there.  Food & Drug Administration (FDA) inspections last month found that the company knowingly shipped products from that plant that had tested positive for salmonella.

Then, earlier this month, Texas health officials closed a PCA plant in Plainview after finding horrible conditions there, including  dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area.  Apparently,  the plant’s air handling system was pulling debris from the infested crawl space into production areas.

The Texas inspection also revealed salmonella contamination there, and the bacteria found at Plainview was eventually tied to six cases of salmonella poisoning in Colorado.  Now, the CDC has confirmed that the Texas salmonella strain is the same one implicated in the nationwide outbreak. Texas health officials ordered everything from the PCA Plainview plant recalled last week.  However, the health department was forced to issue the recall action itself after PCA was slow to do so.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tainted PCA products have sickened 666 people across the country.  Cases of salmonella poisoning – including 9 deaths – related to the outbreak strain have been reported in 44 states and Canada.  The CDC also said that  19 clusters of infections in five states have been reported in schools, long-term care facilities and hospitals. King Nut brand peanut butter – which was made by PCA – was present in all facilities.

King Nut brand peanut butter was among the first products recalled last month because of salmonella contamination.  But because PCA makes peanut paste, peanut butter and other ingredients for 85 other firms, hundreds of other recalls soon followed.  Those recalls now exceed 2000.

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