Over the last few weeks, a growing number of companies have alerted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and consumers that their products contain peanut paste and peanut butter purchased from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), apparently adulterated with the salmonella bacteria. The outbreak is allegedly responsible for 550 reported salmonella cases, and at least eight deaths. On January 28, 2009, PCA expanded the voluntary recall to include dry- and oil-roasted peanuts processed at its Georgia facility.
The tainted peanut products are ingredients in a wide range of consumer goods such as ice cream, energy bars, baked goods, trail mixes, pet foods and dietary supplements. PCA processes peanuts and peanut products in bulk for sale to manufacturers of final consumer goods and to commercial bulk users such as nursing homes and other institutions. PCA has provided the FDA with a list of its customers, and the FDA inspectors are in the process of meeting each of these 1,000 or so PCA customers to urge them to recall their end products. This is a voluntary recall, and while the FDA can impose other regulatory enforcement tactics against companies resistant to joining the recall, it cannot mandate that these companies institute a recall.
New information has implicated a sister PCA plant located in Plainview, Texas. That plant, doing business under the name Plainview Peanut Co, LLC, began processing peanuts in 2005, but had never been inspected by the Texas Department of Health until documents found at PCA linked the two companies. A review of Plainview Peanut Co records conducted by the FDA has failed to reveal salmonella contamination. The FDA reports that it has begun a criminal investigation against PCA.