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Lawmakers Call for Criminal Probe at Peanut Plant
Date:1/28/2009

U.S. health officials say company had distributed questionable peanut butter products in 2007 and 2008, after internal salmonella testing came up positive

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 28 (HealthDay News) -- The Georgia facility that produced the peanut butter and peanut paste involved in the current salmonella outbreak had distributed questionable peanut butter product in the past, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.

The revelation prompted Congressional and Georgia officials to call Wednesday for a federal probe of possible criminal violations at the plant, the Associated Press reported.

From 2007 into 2008, Peanut Corp. of America, which owns the now-closed Blakely, Ga., plant, shipped peanut butter that it knew had been contaminated with salmonella, according to key officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The FDA team identified 12 instances where the firm, as part of its own internal testing program, identified some type of salmonella and released a product after it was retested," Michael Rogers, director of FDA's division of field investigations in the Office of Regional Operations, said during a late afternoon teleconference Tuesday.

While there were no reports of illness as a result of that distribution, "salmonella shouldn't be there," Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said during the teleconference. "It had an adverse effect on the quality of the product, making it adulterated."

"This was clearly a violation of 'good manufacturing practice standards.' This is a practice that the firm should not have engaged in," Sundlof added. "That is a violation of law."

Inspection reports released Wednesday from FDA investigators at the plant two weeks ago cite a litany of safety and sanitation problems and a trail of products that were sent out after being retested to cl
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