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Unsanitary Conditions Found in Peanut Plant

POSTED: 01:47 PM ET, 01/29/2009 by Derek Kravitz

Inspection reports of a Georgia peanut processing plant at the center of a massive, nationwide salmonella outbreak indicate that the company operated in unsanitary conditions and knowingly shipped products contaminated with strains of salmonella.

So far, more than 500 people in 43 states have become ill because of the outbreak. In response, the Food and Drug Administration has ordered one of the largest food recalls in history, asking the public to throw out every product made by the Peanut Corporation of America over the past two years. The Lynchburg, Va.-based company knowingly shipped out salmonella-laced products at least a dozen times in 2007 and 2008, authorities say; at least one congressman has asked for a criminal investigation by the Justice Department.

Among the highlights of the reports released yesterday:

  • A sink in one of the peanut butter rooms was used interchangeably to clean hands and utensils and to wash out mops.
  • The "wash room" was found to be a veritable horror show of problems: a "slimy, black-brown residue," identified as mold, was found on a conveyor and on the walls; a live cockroach and several of his dead compatriots were also discovered.
  • The company's cooler room also had mold on the ceiling and walls. Inspectors spotted water stains leading down to where finished product was stored.
  • An ingredient staging area was found "dirty with a heavy build-up of different powdery ingredients on all exposed surfaces.''
  • The lack of a ventilation system at the facility allowed for contamination to occur and officials did not check the effectiveness of temperature, volume and belt speed during the peanut roasting process.
  • Bacteria-laden raw peanuts were stored next to roasted peanuts, increasing the risk of contamination, and peanut products were stored next to salmonella-contaminated floors and cracks.

More Investigations Documents

By Derek Kravitz |  January 29, 2009; 1:47 PM ET Hot Documents
Previous: Bad Peanuts, New Copter Rules and a Problem at the CIA | Next: Blagojevich: I 'Followed Every Law'


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I would like to know, why these details are just being found out now. Where was the FDA during the time that this factory was operating in this manner? Do they not do periodic inspections of these food handling facilities? Or are they being paid off to look the other way?

Posted by: ajsango | January 29, 2009 3:19 PM

As horrifying as these conditions sound, I'm curious to know how they compare to average peanut-processing facilities in Georgia and elsewhere. If we pulled 20 random inspection reports, how many of them would show similar conditions?

Posted by: Alexis5 | January 29, 2009 3:31 PM

Sounds like people were not only failing to do their jobs properly, the company knew it and still sent out a product that was dangerous.
How about some jail time for the people in charge? Not just for the company but for the inspectors....
We have had 8 years of a pro-business administration. It's time to change the FDA into more than the friend of big business and into a true watchdog of industry to protect America, not big business.
We need a watchdog of the pit bull variety.....

Posted by: abby0802 | January 29, 2009 3:55 PM

Stewart Parnell is President and CEO of Peanut Corporation of America, which has knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted peanut products which have killed 8 people so far.

But he turned a good profit:

"Parnell had the experience and management skills sought by the Georgia plant owner, and the two formed a partnership. Parnell and his new partner have tripled the revenue in the Georgia plant in the three years since. That plant, Parnell said, is profitable for the first time in 15 years."

This is Google's cache of It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Jan 11, 2009 00:57:42 GMT.

Posted by: RayEstonSmithJr | January 29, 2009 5:28 PM

I spent 18 years as a Purchasing Agent for one of the largest snack food manufacturers in the country. I have inspected this plant several times with my Sanitation Superintendent. We never gave this plant a passing grade and never did any business with them. Salmonella comes from moisture getting into the system through leaky roofs, improperly using water to clean the equipment, or a fire in the roaster that requires the local fire department to respond with water. On a separate subject, I have personally waited in a lobby while a Georgia State inspector toured a plant. His inspection lasted about 45 minutes and he passed the plant with flying colors. My partner and I conducted our inspection after he left the building. We failed the plant within 15 minutes. By the way, our inspections usually lasted all day for a small plant, and up to three days for larger facilities. This plant was a bomb waiting to go off. All we could do was make sure we weren't anywhere near when it went.

Posted by: dbrooks3 | January 30, 2009 9:18 AM

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