In 2009 714 persons were infected and nine died from Salmonella Typhimurium linked to the Peanut Corporation of America in Blakely, Georgia. According to the last update by the CDC, the number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Alabama (2), Arizona (14), Arkansas (6), California (81), Colorado (18), Connecticut (11), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Hawaii (6), Idaho (17), Illinois (12), Indiana (11), Iowa (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Louisiana (1), Maine (5), Maryland (11), Massachusetts (49), Michigan (38), Minnesota (44), Missouri (15), Mississippi (7), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (14), New Jersey (24), New York (34), Nevada (7), North Carolina (6), North Dakota (17), Ohio (102), Oklahoma (4), Oregon (15), Pennsylvania (19), Rhode Island (5), South Dakota (4), Tennessee (14), Texas (10), Utah (8), Vermont (4), Virginia (24), Washington (25), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (5), and Wyoming (2). Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada. Patients ranged in age from <1 to 98 years. The median age of patients was 16 years, which meant that half of ill persons were younger than 16 years. 21% were age <5 years, 17% were >59 years. 48% of patients were female. Among persons with available information, 24% reported being hospitalized. Infection contributed to nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2).
The outbreak triggered one of the most extensive food recall ever in U.S. history. As of Spring 2009, the recall involved at nearly 400 companies and over 4,000 different products manufactured using PCA ingredients.The recall included everything produced at the Blakely plant since January 1, 2007. The recalled products made by PCA, such as peanut butter and peanut paste, were common ingredients in cookies, crackers, cereal, candy, ice cream, pet treats, and other foods. Products supplied for some school lunches were pulled and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) even recalled emergency meals. Food banks nationwide had to discard thousands of pounds.
The inspection by the FDA of the Blakely plant – and our own Court ordered inspection – revealed more than just serious flaws in food safety. Here are just a four of the ten Observations from the Amended FDA’s 483 Inspection Report:
Observation 2 – PCA continued to produce peanut paste from September 2008 to January 2009 on an unclean production line that has tested positive for Salmonella Typhimurium in September 2008
Observation 3 – PCA had inadequate records to show that it roasted peanuts – a step to reduce the risk of microbial contamination – at a sufficient temperature.
Observation 4 – PCA stored finished product in areas in the facility that tested positive for numerous types of Salmonella.
Here is the First FDA 483.
And, what was Stewart Parnell’s response to his employees on January 12, 2009, after PCA was under investigation? Here it is:
“No salmonella has been found anywhere in our products or in our plant,…”
Yes, we bankrupted PCA, but if what happened to over 700 families and hundreds of businesses – costing hundreds of millions of dollars – never sees the inside of a criminal court, we should simply never prosecute any corporation, or anyone, that poisons consumers.
The photos (click on image to enlarge) above were taken by me on a site visit to the PCA plant. Mice were everywhere, as was hazard tape put up by FDA and FBI investigators. The photo of the letter from Larry King, I found in the PCA fax machine.