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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

From China – the folks that brought you Melamine in baby formula – now they will not buy our Peanut Butter?

China has banned food imports from eleven United States-based companies whose products have been tainted with peanut butter or paste that contain salmonella bacteria, Wednesday’s China Daily reported.

The blacklisted eleven food manufacturers include the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), considered the source of the contamination, and also the breakfast cereal maker Kellogg, according to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ).

Embarrassed?  Do you wonder why the Chinese might feel uncomfortable?  Read Dahleen Glanton’s – Peanut facility: ‘Nasty’

David James recalled opening a tote of peanuts at the processing plant here and seeing baby mice in it. "It was filthy and nasty all around the place," said James, who used to work in shipping at the plant.
Terry Jones, a janitor, remembered the peanut oil left to soak into the floor and the unrepaired roof that constantly leaked rain.

And James Griffin, a cook at the plant, recounted how his observations led to this simple rule. "I never ate the peanut butter, and I wouldn’t allow my kids to eat it."

According to the workers, not a day went by that they didn’t see roaches or rats scurrying about. And after a heavy rain, workers said, they had to step over puddles of water inside the building.

"It was pretty filthy around there," said Jones, 50, who said he worked in the sanitation department for eight months before he was laid off. "Whenever it rained back in the (peanut) butter part, it was like it was raining inside. It was coming in through the roof and the vents, but that didn’t stop them from making the paste," Jones said.

Jones said he earned $6.55 an hour but he was happy to have the job, which included mopping up water and setting rat traps that sometimes caught three or four rodents a day.

The former workers interviewed said they saw many of these problems and more. Griffin, 27, who was responsible for operating the roasting machines, said he made sure he cleaned them every two weeks, and he said the plant was not as dirty as it has been portrayed by some. It was not always as clean in the area where peanut butter and paste were produced, he said.

Teresa Spencer, 30, who said she worked at the plant for two years before she was laid off in 2007, complained that employees on the peanut line – not trained as professional cleaners – were often required to clean the plant and did it inefficiently.

"They needed to hire a cleanup crew because you can’t do your job and clean up too," said Spencer, who worked as a quality sorter, picking rocks, sticks and bad peanuts from the conveyor line.

Another former employee, James, 36, said he worked in the shipping area for eight months before leaving last year. During that time, James said he "saw them put new stickers on buckets of peanut paste that were out of date. There were roaches, rats and everything out there.

"Some of the bags of nuts had holes in them, and you could tell rats had eaten through them. And they would put tape on them or sew them up and send them out," James said. "Sometimes there would be mold on them, and they told us to pick out the good nuts and put them in another bag."
He said the employees often talked among themselves about the conditions, but he said most workers did not complain to management because they wanted to keep their jobs.

"I’m not surprised this happened," James said. "I just hate that people died."