And people say investigative journalism is a lost art. Hat tip to Sharon Theimer and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of AP for uncovering that “weeks before the earliest signs of a national Salmonella outbreak that now has been traced to peanuts from a Georgia processing plant, peanuts exported by [Peanut Corporation of America] were found to be contaminated and were returned to the United States.” The reason for the Oasis notation on the FDA website was, “the article appears to consist in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance, or is otherwise unfit for food in that it appears to contain foreign objects.” The AP article provides further details:

The rejected shipment – coming over the U.S. border across a bridge between New York and Canada – was logged by the Food and Drug Administration but never was tested by federal inspectors, according to the government’s own records. The chopped peanuts from Peanut Corp. of America in Blakely, Ga., were prevented by the FDA from being allowed back into the United States in mid-September because the peanuts contained an unspecified "filthy, putrid or decomposed substance, or is otherwise unfit for food," according to an FDA report of the incident. It was not immediately clear whether the date on the government’s record, Sept. 15, was when the unspecified importer rejected the shipment or when the FDA refused it. It also was not known whether the peanut shipment ultimately was destroyed or sent somewhere else.

Here are the details from the FDA Oasis Site:

Manufacturer FEI: 3006771904
Manufacturer Name: Peanut Corp Of America
Manufacturer address line 1: Hwy 62 East
Manufacturer City: Blakely
Manufacturer Province/state: GA
Manufacturer Country: United States
Product code: 23NFH01
Importers product description: US GOODS RETURNED – CHOPPED PEANUTS
Refusal date: 15-SEP-2008
FDA_District: NYK-DO
Entry/doc/line/sfx: 112-2270017-4/1/1/
Bill of Lading: LOGF0002758
FDA sample analysis: No
FDA record of private lab sample analysis: Yes
Charge(s): FOREIGN OB
Section: 402(a)(3), 801(a)(3); ADULTERATION
Charge: The article appears to consist in whole or in part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance, or is otherwise unfit for food in that it appears to contain foreign objects.

  • Let’s see if I understand this “complicated” back-story:
    1. Peanut Corp.’s chopped peanuts are refused at the border by Canada. FDA confiscates peanuts, and finds metal fragments.
    2. FDA asks the Georgia State Inspectors to check the plant.
    3. Georgia State Inspectors ONLY check for metal fragments while there, nothing else was inspected or checked? WTH?
    4. Georgia State Inspectors make a follow up visit FOUR MONTHS LATER, in late October, to only check for metal fragments yet again.
    5. Salmonella outbreak happens a few weeks after the last check in October, so they began in November?
    6. Public is notified of outbreak early this month, January, which is approximately a month since the outbreak occurred, right?
    7. Since the outbreak, the FDA inspectors found salmonella, roaches, mold, and leaky roof which may be the source of the salmonella according to earlier articles.
    “Federal officials now say the plant had a salmonella problem dating back at least to June 2007. Peanut Corp. was under no obligation to tell the FDA it was making peanut butter at the Georgia plant, the FDA said Friday.”
    How do they know about the salmonella problem going back that far? Are there records of salmonella problems documented? Or are there lab tests that can tell how old an outbreak is? If there’s documentation, then why would the FDA let the state inspectors get away with only looking for metal fragments there’s a paper trail of documented outbreaks recently?
    “Obama plans to name a new FDA commissioner and other oversight officials in the coming days, and put in place a “stricter regulatory structure” to prevent breakdowns in food safety…”
    I certainly hope so! AFAIC, we’re no better than China was during their melanine scandal with lack of Mad Cow testing under Bush’s administration. I want Obama to make each visit by inspectors do a full inspection each time they’re at a plant, no matter what the reason. They’re already there anyway.
    “The FDA’s explanation Friday raises new questions about the adequacy of food-safety tests arranged by Peanut Corp. of its own products.”
    And proves the FDA’s impotency to do a darn thing about it, and it seem like the FDA is quite blas√© too, unless Obama makes some serious changes in favor of public safety rather than protecting big food corp’s bottom line like Bush’s administration, like mandating full inspections no matter how minor the original reason for a visit.
    PS: I’m not pro-Obama, but could be swayed depending on his actions.

  • cros’

    It’s time for some people to go to jail, starting with the peanut company, then all the way up to the FDA.
    Contaminated foods have become much too commonplace in our society.
    Shame on us.

  • racz G

    i just have to say only one thing here. The past eight years of evil empire, brought out the worst behavior out of our business guys. I think they were protected by washington!