Peanut Corporation of America has shut down a second peanut-processing plant. This one, in Plainview, Texas, was closed by state authorities who discovered salmonella in products there. PCA owns three peanut-processing plants, in Georgia, Texas and Virginia. The federal investigation into the salmonella outbreak, which has killed eight people and sickened 600 others in 44 states, has centered on the company's Blakely, Ga. plant, which was shut down last month.
Meanwhile during a House committee hearing Wednesday Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. disclosed internal e-mails showing that PCA executives were notified last fall that its products tested positive for salmonella. When asked about the notification, the company's executives invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify.
"What I really find amazing is that it was known by PCA that their product was tainted with potentially life-threatening salmonella and yet it was released into the food supply anyway," said Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.
On the heels of these developments, Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has written to Dr. Stephen Sundlof, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition saying FDA oversight of state inspection of food processing facilities is not working. FDA officials confirm that the plant in Texas may have gone four years without a food safety inspection.
"We've been here before and we cannot afford to be here again," Harkin said. "We are seeing the results of food processing facilities that go un-inspected."
Harkin is asking FDA to release to Congress records detailing the inspection report from the Georgia State Department of Agriculture. The FDA has yet to submit the documents and Harkin continues to urge FDA to release the records on state contracts immediately.