Last month, inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration visited the Plainview, Texas, peanut processing plant owned and operated by the Peanut Corporation of America. The inspection was ordered after investigators linked a salmonella outbreak that sickened nearly 700 people in nearly every state to the Peanut Corp’s plant in Blakely, Georgia. Shortly after the outbreak, news broke that the company’s sister plant in Texas plant actually operated unlicensed and uninspected for years. Inspectors rushed in.
What they found at the plant defines corporate irresponsibility and underscores the shortcomings of government agencies on both federal and state levels in doing their job to serve and protect the public.
Some of the items on the FDA report include:
- A dead mouse stuck to a glue trap. “The mouse appeared to have died recently,” the report reads.
- “What appeared to be rodent excreta pellets too numerous to count were observed in the cabinet under the sink in the south most kitchen.”
- “In the cabinet north of the dishwasher … I counted approximately 27 rodent excreta pellets.”
- “Another dead mouse was found just outside the south most doorway of the kitchen. … This mouse also appeared to have recently died.”
- “What appeared to be a bird’s nest was observed in the wall/ceiling metal support beam at southwest corner of the mezzanine area.”
- Processing machines had buildup of “gooey” peanut paste.
- Numerous roof leaks.
Aside from hundreds of sick people and as many as 9 deaths, the irresponsibility that caused the salmonella outbreak had an enormous economic impact on individuals and companies alike. Thousands of products were pulled from the shelves, plants closed, employees became jobless, and two towns worried about their future. Even peanut butter manufacturers and other food companies that did no business with the Peanut Corp. saw a sharp decline in revenue as the public became fearful of all peanut products.
The peanut recall is one of the largest recalls in US history and the latest in a series of recalls that included contaminated lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, and peppers. The recalls have diminished public confidence in the effectiveness of the FDA and renewed calls in Congress to reform the agency.
Despite the peanut recall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the outbreak continues as people continue to consume contaminated products.