- The Peanut Corp. of America initiated a national recall of all peanut-based items manufactured in their Georgian facility over the past two years due to a salmonella outbreak, potentially causing eight fatalities.
- The recall was broadened after the company discovered salmonella contamination in their products through internal evaluations. The FDA marks this as one of the largest recalls ever.
- There is uncertainty in the FDA about whether all recalled products have been consumed or continue to be in use.
- The FDA found safety and sanitation issues including roaches, mould, and evidence of a leaky roof in the Georgian factory. The plant was found to be not complying with FDA’s manufacturing practices, and flagged for shipping adulterated products.
- In light of the outbreak, four strains of salmonella have been linked to the factory. While the outbreak might be abating with a reduction in new cases, more than half of the victims are minors as most of the contaminated products were supplied to institutions such as schools.
An alarming national recall of all peanut-based items manufactured over the past two years at a Georgian plant associated with a current salmonella outbreak has been revealed by health officials in the US.
The recall’s initiation was taken by Peanut Corp. of America, a company whose facility made peanut butter and peanut paste, contributing to the afflictions of 501 individuals and potentially causing eight fatalities.
The Reason Behind the Widening Recall
The company, on realizing through internal evaluations that salmonella contamination was present in their products—a fact not previously exposed to any state or federal regulatory bodies—decided to extend the recall. This recall now covers all peanut-based items manufactured within its Georgian facility dating back to the first day of 2007, stated an upper echelon executive at the FDA during a conference call.
Emphasizing the magnitude of this recall, the executive added, “This is among the largest recalls we have had.”
The products recalled are not limited to, but include whole peanuts, both dry and oil roasted, granulated peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut paste.
Scope of The Recall
However, the FDA is still uncertain about whether all the products under recall have been consumed or continue to be used. They are, “trying to ascertain its breadth,” he said.
The recall announcement comes after revelations that Peanut Corp. had in the past distributed suspect peanut butter products sourced from the same plant.
These discoveries sparked congress members and Georgian officials to demand a federal investigation for potential violations at the Georgian factory.
Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter was knowingly shipped by Peanut Corp. in between 2007 and 2008, according to FDA officials and representatives of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This was discovered following an inspection report from the Georgian factory.
Factory Inspection Findings
An executive from the FDA’s regional investigations division stated that the FDA team found 12 instances where the firm had discovered some salmonella contamination during their internal testing, and released a product only after it was retested.
Investigative reports from FDA staff on location at the factory a fortnight ago highlighted a long list of safety and sanitation issues, as well as traces of products that were shipped out after retesting to clear salmonella contaminants. The presence of roaches, mould, and evidence of a leaky roof were among the numerous issues found during the inspection.
The team concluded that the plant did not comply with FDA’s requisite manufacturing practices and that adulterated products were being shipped.
The first step, as mentioned by the FDA, is to resolve the issues with the company before taking any enforcement actions.
However, others have reacted strongly to the situation. An official who oversees FDA funding labeled the actions of Peanut Corp. as “reprehensible and criminal.”
The American Peanut Council echoed similar sentiments regarding the expanded recall, stressing that public health and safety cannot be compromised under any circumstance. One executive of the council stated, “This is a clear and unconscionable act by one manufacturer.”
Combatting The Outbreak
In lieu of the situation, four strains of salmonella have been linked to the Georgian plant in the current outbreak, as per FDA officials. Of these, only one strain, salmonella Typhimurium, has been responsible for widespread illness since the past fall.
However, other strains of salmonella were also discovered in different areas within the plant, reports an official at the CDC’s division of foodborne, bacterial and mycotic diseases in the National Center for Zoonotic Vectorborne and Enteric Diseases. Although, no cases of salmonella infection from these additional strains have been reported.
While jars of peanut butter available on store shelves appear to be safe, hundreds of products containing peanut butter and peanut paste from numerous companies have been recalled thus far. A list of these recalled products is available on the FDA’s website.
Finally, it appears that the outbreak could potentially be petering out with a reduction in the number of new cases in the last fortnight. But as most of the contaminated products were supplied to institutions such as schools, over half the victims have been minors.
For more information on this outbreak, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.