Posted Jan 28, 2009 12:09 pm CST
The Georgia peanut plant linked to an outbreak of salmonella sold its products despite a dozen internal tests over the last two years that indicated contamination with the disease, according to officials of the Food and Drug Administration.
Michael Rogers, director of field investigations at the FDA, told reporters yesterday that after the initial positive test results, the company sent the product to an outside lab that found no contamination, Reuters reports. Inspectors were not aware of the problem because companies are not required to disclose internal tests, the Washington Post reports.
The company, Peanut Corp. of America, said it is cooperating in the federal investigation and has released every record sought by federal officials. Its products are not sold directly to stores and were not used by major peanut butter brands.
At least two lawsuits have already been filed against the peanut processor. One was filed on behalf of a Vermont couple whose son became ill after eating peanut butter crackers, the Associated Press reports. Another was filed by the family of a 72-year-old Minnesota nursing home resident who died after eating toast with peanut butter, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Minneapolis lawyer Fred Pritzker represents the family.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture was responsible for inspecting the plant under an agreement with the FDA, according to the Post. Although Georgia officials visited the plant last October, they did not test for salmonella. The state tests about 4,500 food samples a year among the 16,000 food processors and grocery stores that it inspects.