Peanut plant problem forces fresh recall

January 29, 2009 6:06:28 PM PST
Worried about salmonella, the Army said Thursday it's removing some peanut butter items from warehouses in Europe, the latest in an ever-growing list of recalled peanut products linked to a national salmonella outbreak. For a list of updated, new recalls click here.
Already more than 430 kinds of cakes, cookies and other goods in the civilian world have been pulled off store shelves in what the Food and Drug Administration is calling one of the largest product recalls in memory. The Army's recall does not affect Meals-Ready-to-Eat, but another kind of military grub called Unitized Group Rations-A, which provide a complete 50-person meal.

More than 500 people have gotten sick in the U.S. outbreak, and at least eight may have died as a result of salmonella infection. At the center of the investigation is a Georgia peanut processing plant where federal inspectors reported finding roaches, mold, a leaking roof and other sanitary problems.

Managers at the Blakely, Ga., plant owned by Peanut Corp. of America continued shipping peanut products even after they were found to contain salmonella, the FDA said. The company shipped the food items after retesting them and getting negative results. Peanut Corp. expanded its recall Wednesday to all peanut goods produced at the plant since Jan. 1, 2007. The company makes just 1 percent of the peanut products sold in the United States, but those products are ingredients in hundreds of other foods, from ice cream, to Asian-style sauces, to dog biscuits. Major national brands of peanut butter are not affected.

A senior lawmaker in Congress and Georgia's agriculture commissioner called for a criminal probe of the company, but the FDA said that would be premature while its own food safety investigation continues.

The company says it is fully cooperating with the government and has stopped all production at the plant. Peanut Corp. said in a statement it "categorically denies any allegations that the company sought favorable results from any lab in order to ship its products."

Stewart Parnell, the firm's president, said that the recall was expanded out of an abundance of caution.

"We have been devastated by this, and we have been working around the clock with the FDA to ensure any potentially unsafe products are removed from the market immediately," Parnell said. Most of the older products in the expanded recall have probably been eaten already. Officials said they see no signs of any earlier outbreaks from those goods.

The recall covers peanut butter, peanut paste, peanut meal and granulated products, as well as all peanuts - dry and oil roasted - shipped from the factory. FDA officials could not quantify the amount of products being recalled.

Officials recommend that consumers check the FDA web site, which lists all the products being recalled, and toss out any that are named.

Salmonella had been found previously at least 12 times in products made at the plant, but production lines were never cleaned after internal tests indicated contamination, FDA inspectors said in a report. Products that initially tested positive were retested. When the company got a negative reading, it shipped the products out.

That happened as recently as September. A month later, health officials started picking up signals of the salmonella outbreak. Michael Rogers, a senior FDA investigator, said it's possible for salmonella to hide in small pockets of a large batch of peanut butter. That means the same batch can yield both positive and negative results, he said. The products should have been discarded after they first tested positive.

Separately, senior congressional and state officials on Wednesday called for a federal probe of possible criminal violations at the plant.

The company's actions "can only be described as reprehensible and criminal," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who oversees FDA funding. "This behavior represents the worst of our current food safety regulatory system."

In Georgia, the state's top agriculture official joined DeLauro in asking the Justice Department to determine whether the case warrants criminal prosecution.

"They tried to hide it so they could sell it," said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin. "Now they've caused a mammoth problem that could destroy their company - and it could destroy the peanut industry."

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On the Net:

FDA's recall page: http://tinyurl.com/8srctw

The following recalls have been announced:

-Wells' Dairy Inc. is recalling all Blue Bunny No Sugar Added Reduced Fat Bunny Tracks ice cream and one lot of Blue Bunny Personals Bunny Tracks because the products could be contaminated with salmonella. This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. The Le Mars, Iowa, company said it has not received any consumer illness complaints. The recalled Blue Bunny No Sugar Added Reduced Fat Bunny Tracks ice cream was sold at retail and foodservice levels in 1.75-quart plastic containers with "Best Used By" dates before Jan. 29, 2010. The recalled Blue Bunny Personals Bunny Tracks was sold in 8 fluid ounce containers at retail and foodservice levels with the lot No. 80024 D19114 and a "Best Used By" date of Sept. 11, 2009. For more information, consumers can visit http://www.bluebunny.com.

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-Country Maid Inc. is expanding its previous recall of 2-pound packages of Classic Breaks peanut butter cookie dough to include more lot numbers, because they could be contaminated with salmonella. This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. No illness has been reported.

The dough was distributed through fundraising groups in the following states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. It was available between Aug. 20, 2007 and Jan. 9, 2009.

The lot numbers included in the recall are 22507, 24007, 24707, 29707, 31007, 36207, 03008, 03908, 04608, 06708, 11308, 11408, 21908, 26208, 26308, 29808, 33808 and 36508.

Details: by phone at 888-460-6904.

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-Wegmans Food Markets Inc. is recalling all code dates of peanut covered doughnuts, peanut butter cookies and chocolate peanut butter tarts because they could be contaminated with salmonella. This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. The Rochester, N.Y., company said there have been no reported illnesses. The peanut covered doughnuts were sold individually, the peanut butter cookies were sold by the pound and only in Wegmans stores with a full-service Cookie Shop, and the chocolate peanut butter tarts were sold only in Wegmans stores with a full-service Patisserie. The three recalled products were sold in Wegmans' stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland. Details: by phone at 800-934-6267; by Web at http://www.wegmans.com.

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-Fieldbrook Foods Corp. is recalling select ice cream sundae cones that contain granulated peanuts, because they could be contaminated with salmonella. This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. No illness has been reported. The cones were distributed to stores and food service centers across the country and in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Details: by phone at 800-333-0805.

The recalled products include:

-America's Choice caramel round top cone four-packs with UPC code 5480715074
-America's Choice fudge round top cone four-packs with UPC code 5480715073
-America's Choice sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 5480714033
-Artic Classic variety pack 48-packs with UPC code 7163261365
-Big Y vanilla round top cone 4-packs with UPC code 1889431093
-Big Y sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 1889431003
-Bon vanilla round top cone 24-packs with UPC code 468162813860
-Byrne Dairy sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4311901861
-Carnival sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4149701105
-Cub Foods sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4113047379
-Dolly Madison vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 7765100108
-Econo vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 0893800536
-Food Club vanilla round top cone six-packs with UPC code 3680014085
-Flavorite sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4113003778
-Food City variety cone eight-pack with UPC code 8784810249
-Food City vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 8784810274
-Giant Eagle variety cone eight-packs with UPC code 3003400334
-Giant Eagle caramel round top cone four-packs with UPC code 3003404077
-Giant Eagle fudge round top cone four-packs with UPC code 3003404076
-Giant Eagle vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 3003404075
-Giant vanilla round top cone eight-packs with UPC code 8826706258
-Grande sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 1257868912
-Greens nutty cone 24-packs with UPC code 7144174842
-Greens sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 7144103239
-Hill Country Fare vanilla round top cone eight-packs with UPC code 4122010191
-Hill Country Fare vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4122010192
-Hill Country Fare caramel round top cone four-packs with UPC codes 4122018895
-Hill Country Fare chocolate round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4122018411
-Hagan sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 3749800702
-Hood nutty cone 24-packs with UPC code 4410023436
-Hood nutty cone six-packs with UPC code 4410023160
-Ice Girl vanilla round top cone six-packs with UPC code 5193369600
-IGA sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4127004198
-Kay's sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 8784810144
-Key Food sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 7329641702
-Krasdale sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 7513097624
-Krasdale sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 7513097655
-Lowes sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4164300460
-Lowes vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4164300741
-Market Basket vanilla round top cone eight-packs with UPC code 4970596905
-Meijer fudge round top cone four-packs with UPC code 1928391245
-Meijer vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 1928391235
-Pathmark sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4124013737
-Pathmark variety pack 30-packs with UPC code 4124019545
-Pathmark vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4124019991
-Price Chopper sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4173509279
-Price Chopper fudge round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4173509284
-Price Chopper vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4173509283
-Price Chopper vanilla round top cone six-packs with UPC code 4173509282
-Pricerite sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4119075711
-Publix vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4141526643
-River Valley sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 7898210201
-Redners sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 1598410417
-Redners vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 1598404006
-Richfood sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 1116662759
-Roundy's vanilla round top cone eight-packs with UPC code 1115058946
-Shop 'n Save sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 4113034362
-Shoprite vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4119040530
-Shurfine vanilla round top cone eight-packs with UPC code 1540022285
-Shurfine sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 1540082995
-Shurfresh caramel round top cone four-packs with UPC code 1116140087
-Shurfresh fudge round top cone four-packs with UPC code 1116140088
-Shurfresh vanilla round top cone six-packs with UPC code 1116140086
-Stater Bros vanilla round top cone eight-packs with UPC code 7417585015
-Stater Bros variety cones eight-packs with UPC code 7417585016
-Stater Bros caramel round top cone four-packs with UPC code 7417585042
-Stater Bros fudge round top cone four-packs with UPC code 7417585041
-Stater Bros vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 7417585040
-Stater Bros variety pack 32-packs with UPC code 7417585018
-Stop & Shop vanilla round top cone eight-packs with UPC code 8826706258
-Sundae Shoppe fudge round top cone six-packs with UPC code 4149818628
-Sundae Shoppe caramel round top cone six-packs with UPC code 4149518629
-Sundae Shoppe vanilla round top cone six-packs with UPC code 4149815643
-Tops Sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 8826703290
-United Dairy vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 7158001609
-United Dairy sundae cone six-packs with UPC codes 7158008047
-Valu Time sundae cone six-packs with UPC codes 1122502716
-Velvet vanilla round top cone 24-packs with UPC code 7068210820
-Velvet vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 7068210824
-Weis vanilla round top cone four-packs with UPC code 4149701157
-Winn Dixie vanilla round top cone eight-packs with UPC code 2114027139
-Winn Dixie sundae cone six-packs with UPC code 2114027140

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