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There is a long piece in USA Today this morning about the criminal investigation into the activities of Peanut Corp. of America (PCA), which has been implicated in the salmonella outbreak that appears to have contributed to some 700 illnesses and nine deaths.

According to the story, “Federal authorities have begun a criminal investigation of PCA, and the company is bankrupt. Records produced in the FDA's investigation of PCA and in congressional hearings on the outbreak portray a company that not only failed to heed warnings about its deficiencies, but allegedly shipped products that had tested positive for salmonella after retests were negative.

“More important, the case reveals a food-safety system in which every key link in the chain of protection failed, food-safety officials and lawmakers say.”

And, the paper writes, “The U.S. food-safety net relies heavily on companies to be good operators. Yet PCA repeatedly failed to fix problems that were brought to its attention, according to regulatory records and documents made public in congressional hearings. Nestlé, for example, twice inspected PCA plants and chose not to take on PCA as a supplier because it didn't meet Nestlé's food-safety standards, according to Nestlé's audit reports in 2002 and 2006.

“Regulators never found anything major wrong with PCA's Blakely plant until after the outbreak. Then, the FDA found major problems in sanitation, manufacturing and even plant design.

“Unlike Nestlé, other PCA customers, including Kellogg, never audited the Blakely plant themselves. Instead, they selected PCA as a supplier based in part on an inspection by an auditing firm that was paid by PCA and that rates almost every client ‘excellent’ or ‘superior’.”
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