Federal health officers have begun an investigation into the actions of the PCA or Peanut Corporation of America|Peanut Corporation of America, which they said they knew that they had sold tainted peanut butter and peanut products to major food producers.
The investigation is being conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the Justice Department, according to Dr. Stephen F. Sundlof, director of the food center at the Food and Drug Administration
The agency rarely discloses criminal investigations that are presently in progress, but did so in this situation after several influential members of Congress insisted a criminal investigation just recently.
The contamination of the company’s peanut products with salmonella poisoning has led to one of the largest food recalls in the nation’s history. More than 400 items containing peanuts, peanut butter or peanut meal have been recalled, and more recalls are anticipated.
On Monday, the company expanded its recall to include items made at its facility in Blakely, Ga., in 2007 and the first half of 2008; it had previously recalled all products made there from July forward.
The Food and Drug Administration also stated that in April it denied to accept a delivery of peanut items from the company to be brought back into the United States from Canada because it contained metal shavings. The company tried to clean the delivery but failed, and the products were destroyed in November, the agency said.
Because of that predicament, the agency asked state inspectors in Georgia to visit the plant to ensure that no more metal content would find their way into in with the items.
The April incident involving the blocked shipment was apparently the first time the F.D.A. was aware that the company was making peanut items, rather than just peanut butter, at its Blakely plant.
Agency officers said that name-brand peanut butter had proved safe to ingest, but that some no name brands of peanut butter for instance, those made in small batches at stores could be suspect.
The peanut poisoning has now struck 529 people and is associated with eight deaths. Cases are still being reported to federal health officials, although the number of new cases has decreased quite a bit, said Dr. Robert Tauxe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said Friday, I think the revelations have no doubt been shocking, that whether it was our own monitoring system or a company that testing would continue to deliver that product is beyond disturbing for millions of parents.
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