According to inspection records, salmonella-laced products were being shipped by a Georgia peanut company that knew the peanuts were likely tainted and sometimes after that contamination was confirmed by tests as far back as 2007.
Producing or shipping foods under conditions that could cause it to be harmful to the health of consumers is prohibited under federal law.
Earlier, officials from the Food and Drug Administration had said that Peanut Corp. of American waited for a second test to clear peanut butter and peanuts that had initially tested positive for salmonella contamination. However, the FDA amended its report on February 6, saying that some products were actually shipped by the Blakely, Georgia plant before the second test was received and some others were sold after salmonella had been confirmed.
According to the FDA report, Peanut Corp. shipped chopped peanuts in on July 18 and 24, 2007 after private lab tests confirmed salmonella. The company sold products “on or after the positive salmonella results were obtained.”
In other cases, Peanut Corp. did not even wait for a second round of testing for salmonella, according to FDA head of field investigations Michael Rogers. He said a more detailed analysis of records submitted by the company led to the FDA’s discovery.
At least eight deaths and 575 illnesses across 43 states have been blamed on the salmonella outbreak. A criminal investigation has been opened by the Justice Department and more than 1,550 products have been recalled.
According to a report in The New York Times, wary consumers are beginning to shun all brands of peanut butter, even ones not affected by the recall. As a result, sales are down nearly 25 percent.Problems at the plant are not new. In 2001, FDA inspectors discovered that products had potentially been exposed to insecticides, one of several violations discovered during the last visit federal officials made before the current scare, according to a report The Associated Press obtained.