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Warning on peanuts came as early as April

A faulty shipment sent to Canada was returned to the Georgia plant linked to the salmonella outbreak.

January 31, 2009|Dahleen Glanton

BLAKELY, GA. — Federal officials acknowledged Friday that there were warnings about problems at the peanut plant linked to a national salmonella outbreak as early as last April when metal fragments were found in a shipment of chopped peanuts sent to Canada.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the shipment, described as "filthy and putrid," was rejected in Canada and returned to a Peanut Corp. of America facility in Blakely, Ga., where federal officials ordered that the entire shipment be destroyed.

Though the FDA said it took appropriate steps in blocking the distribution of the peanuts, the federal government said the agency did not conduct a full inspection of the processing plant, now determined to be the source of a salmonella outbreak responsible for 529 cases of poisoning, including eight deaths, in 43 states.

Also Friday, the FDA said that, working through the Justice Department, it had begun a criminal investigation into the activities at the peanut plant, which federal officials said knowingly shipped out tainted peanut products that had tested positive for salmonella. The Justice Department would be responsible for prosecuting the cases.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was asked Friday by Gov. Sonny Perdue to determine whether the state had jurisdiction to investigate the plant.

Domenic Veneziano, director of import operations and policy for the FDA's Office of Regulatory Affairs, said the shipment in question was returned to the U.S. from Canada on April 11. It was destroyed on Nov. 17.

"The shipment was rejected from Canada and imported back to the U.S." and returned to the Peanut Corp. of America, Veneziano said. "They tried to recondition the shipment . . . and clean it up, and it could not be done. . . . The FDA went out and witnessed that shipment . . . and ensure that it was destroyed."

FDA officials said the recall had been expanded to more than 400 products made from ground peanuts and roasted peanuts from the plant.

To learn which peanut butter products have been recalled, visit .

National brand peanut butter sold in supermarkets is safe and not affected by the recall, the FDA said. However, officials said that some boutique brands made in-house could contain products supplied by Peanut Corp. of America, headquartered in Lynchburg, Va.

The FDA has recalled all products that contain the company's dry roasted and oil roasted peanuts, granulated peanuts, peanut meal, peanut butter and peanut paste. Federal officials said they were still trying to determine all the affected products on the market.

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dglanton@tribune.com

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