Thursday, February 5, 2009

In case you missed it



I’ve been ranting now for a couple of weeks about the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA) and their Blakely Georgia plant. I’m sorry to tell you that I’m not done ranting yet. And now Washington has joined me on my rant.

Lawmakers met today to discuss the issue and they are upset. They wanted to know how food makers and state health inspectors are allowed to keep negative test results to themselves. And yes, that’s true. Federal laws do not require companies or state officials to report their findings to the federal government. They don’t have to say one word. They have even gotten away with operating a plant that the government is unaware exists. Right here in Texas the PCA owned a plant that was not licensed, registered or inspected for four years. They only discovered that plant after this outbreak.

One senator (Sen. Patrick Leahy, Democrat-Vermont) was quoted in the AP story as saying he’d “like to see some people go to jail”. Well welcome to my world. Why are you so late?

The list of recalled products is growing. According to the AP story it has passed 1000 products now. I couldn’t possibly list them here, but if you’d like to check it (I know I did) you can click here.

Thanks to the Electronic Freedom of Information Act we are entitled to view the records from the inspections that were made by the FDA after the discovery of salmonella in PCA products. I read every word of it. If you’d like to read it yourself you can click here but I’ll give you a summary. (Note that it’s a PDF file and Adobe Reader will be required to view it.)

Let me start out by saying it’s disgusting. The way that this plant was run and maintained, or rather not maintained, is just pathetic.

Salmonella was found and documented in 12 different instances. But that’s actually not the worst part of the report.

The line that the Salmonella Typhimurium (the strain of salmonella that is making everyone ill right now) was found on was not cleaned after the discovery of the bacteria. To make that worse the company continued to manufacture peanut products using that line all the way up until the FDA came in to inspect the plant on January 9. After people had died.

The roaster that was supposed to wipe out any microbiological contamination was set up improperly. The temperature was not set hot enough to kill the salmonella and the belt that moved the peanuts through the roaster was set to the wrong speed not allowing the roaster enough time to kill the salmonella. Oh but it gets worse.

Raw product was stored next to product that was ready to be packed up. There were 2000 pound containers sitting next to each other that were impossible to tell apart. Plus those containers were within 15 feet of a crack in the floor where salmonella was found.

Salmonella was also found on the cooler floor just 3 feet away from finished products and mold was found on the cooler’s walls and ceiling. They said the fans in the cooler were leaking water and pallets of finished product were sitting directly underneath that unit. The ceiling in the entire plant leaked either air conditioner ‘water’ or rain water and products were below all the places leaks occurred.

Worst of all it says that the day they first went into the plant there was a build up of product residue on all of the equipment (grinders, hoppers, and the line) that was allowed to remain there and product continued being produced around it. That there was a “slimy black-brown residue” on a conveyer belt and that pieces of a yellow & black caution sign were flaking off into products.

It also mentions several other things (holes in the ceiling and roaches for two) but honestly I’m just way too grossed out now to continue telling you about it. I’m just stunned. I’m almost stunned speechless. That’s hard to do.

I’m glad the PCA and their dirty ways have been brought to the attention of Washington legislators. I hope they are able to find PCA guilty of something criminal. I know they are criminals. I’m not actually as worried about that part of it as much now. Now what I’m worried about is how many other plants are out there doing business in the exact same way PCA was; especially food manufacturers. Just what am I supposed to eat? Is any of it safe?

4 COMMENTS:

kat said...

There is now a blog from the CDC and FDA about the peanut product recall.

Kathy said...

Thank you so much Kat. I followed the link you provided and it is very interesting!

justin manas prince jaspher ligin said...

irresponsible people...

Maki said...

Oh yes, there are sooooooo many dirty littles secrets in food business and the way people try to hide it. It's disgraceful.

Great post and keep on ranting - that's the only way people hear the real issue sometimes:)

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