Expect more peanut-related products to be recalled after a Texas processing plant closed Monday night because of possible salmonella contamination, reports The New York Times. The plant was operated by the Peanut Corporation of America, the same company that owned the Georgia facility blamed in the massive ongoing recall of food products.
The Texas facility was described as “disgusting” by a former assistant plant manager. The roof leaked and water was often left standing in the basement.
Why the Texas plant wasn’t singled out sooner is going to haunt the Food and Drug Administration and lawmakers for some time to come. The reason: the FDA claims it could not investigate this plant until it had cause. In other words, one plant causing millions if not billions of dollars of damage to the food industry does not constitute probable cause to investigate a food maker’s other properties. What horse hockey.
I should note that the FBI raided the Georgia facility and hauled away “a whole bunch of stuff” for a criminal investigation. I’m trying to picture a handcuffed vat being loaded into an FBI van.
Meanwhile, more revelations emerge, . Consider that there was another massive salmonella outbreak that sparked a recall of Peter Pan peanut butter in 2007. Instead of checking out the entire industry, the FDA simply ignored the warning signs, reports The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
“It seems to take a lot to get them to pay attention to an industry,” said Jean Halloran, the director of food policy initiatives for the Consumers Union, the nonprofit group that publishes Consumer Reports magazine. “You don’t see them bearing down on what the problem was and checking all the other companies.”
More proof that a simple visual inspection would have revealed how poorly the Georgia plant was run comes from The New York Times:
Raw peanuts were stored next to the finished peanut butter. The roaster was not calibrated to kill deadly germs. Dispirited workers on minimum wage, supplied by temp agencies, donned their uniforms at home, potentially dragging contaminants into the plant, which also had rodents.
Even the roof of the Peanut Corporation of America plant here in rural southwest Georgia was an obvious risk, given that salmonella thrives in water and the facility should have been kept bone dry.
To give you an idea of just how screwed up the FDA is, look at the report on the plant that I posted above. Are FDA agents still using typewriters to prepare these things? You mean these reports aren’t loaded into a database somewhere? Good grief!
The FDA doesn’t need a reorganization, it needs a complete reengineering.
If you want an idea of how inadequate the FDA recall efforts have been, read Peanut Scandal’s Weakest Victims