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Salmonella Warning Issued After Company Refuses to Recall Potentially-Tainted Peanuts

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Consumers are being warned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not to eat Westco Fruit and Nuts’ peanuts.  According to the FDA, the company has refused to issue a recall, even though the peanuts may be tainted with salmonella linked to the the  Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) recall.

Yesterday, the FDA formally requested Westco/Westcott to voluntarily recall all products containing peanuts from PCA because of the likelihood of salmonella contamination.  FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified products from PCA’s Blakely, Georgia, facility as a source of the current salmonella Typhimurium outbreak, which led to PCA’s recall of the peanuts.  Between November 19 and December 30, 2008, Westco/Westcott received three shipments of Oil Roasted Salted Redskin Jumbo Peanuts from PCA’s Blakely facility.  Westco/Westcott then sold these potentially salmonella-contaminated peanuts in various size/package configurations and also used them as an ingredient in a variety of mixed nut products and trail mix produced between November 19, 2008, and mid-February 2009.Because of Westco/Westcott’s refusal to issue a recall, the FDA has now issued a warning to consumers not to ingest any peanuts or peanut-derived products sold by Westco Fruit and Nuts Inc. (Westco/Westcott) of Irvington, New Jersey due to possible salmonella contamination.  The FDA said that peanuts in Westco/Westcott products might have been distributed by the PCA, which recalled its peanuts because of concerns about salmonella Typhimurium.  ABC News reported that the FDA warned Westco/Westcott to comply with its request for a recall or face a government raid and pointed out that the FDA does not currently have the authority to issue recalls.

ABC News spoke with Westco/Westcott owner, Jacob Moradi, who claims his products are safe and that the FDA’s recommended recall could run his company into the ground.  “They are asking me to commit suicide based on presumption.  They have shown no proof.  We have begged them….  They have no proof that anyone got sick from eating whole redskin peanuts roasted in oil.”  Moradi continues to reject the FDA’s requests and refuses to recall his products and to provide a client list to the FDA.  But, a federal official said Moradi “ran away and hid” when government inspectors arrived at his plant, ABC News reported.  “I was scared of them,” Moradi told ABC News.

Nevertheless, the FDA urges consumers to check whether they have peanut-derived products made by or distributed by Westco/Westcott in their homes.  For those consumers who do, they should dispose of the peanuts in a safe manner by placing them in a plastic bag with bleach, sealing the bag properly, and placing the bag in a trash bin; they should then immediately wash their hands after handling.  As of mid-March, 691 people have been infected with the outbreak strain of salmonella Typhimurium in 46 states and Canada; the outbreak has been linked to nine deaths.  Salmonella is an organism, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea—which may be bloody—nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.  In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections, e.g., infected aneurysms, endocarditis, and arthritis.

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