PCA, the source of the national outbreak of salmonella typhimurium that has caused the death of at least six individuals and sickened hundreds more, has now come under fire for alleged lapses in food safety protocols in their Blakely, Georgia, plant. As Julia Bodeeb reported earlier today, PCA’s internal tests for salmonella tested positive, yet they shipped the peanut products anyway after retesting and obtaining a negative result. The FDA has placed a copy of the inspection report for the Blakely, Georgia plant on the FDA.gov website for consumers to read. The six page long report details the findings of inspectors on various visits to the plant that occurred between January 9 and January 27. What follows is my own analysis of the highlights of the FDA’s inspection report.
PCA failed to clean the peanut line after Salmonella Typhimurium was discovered in September 2008
On page 2 of the FDA’s inspection report, the inspectors noted that Salmonella Typhimurium was found in peanut paste manufactured on September 26, 2008. However, despite the finding of Salmonella Typhimurium, the peanut line was not properly cleaned and “the firm continued to manufacture peanut paste in this system from 9/26/08 to the beginning of this inspection on 1/9/2009…” PCA failed to meet food product safety standards by opting not to properly clean or sanitize the peanut paste line for nearly four months after the salmonella was discovered.
PCA failed to keep adequate data regarding roasting temperatures, conveyor speeds
PCA’s inspection report on page 3 also shows that inadequate records were kept with regard to temperatures in the firm’s roasting. Roasting is a crucial step in killing microbacteria and, according to the FDA’s report, PCA did not record its roaster’s temperatures numerous times over the past several months, sometimes failing to record temperature data for weeks at a time. This lax record keeping would make it difficult to determine whether or not the roasting temperatures were high enough to kill bacteria and make the finished product safe for consumption.
Water leaks in PCA’s packaging/production area
Also noted in the FDA report were instances of water marks on the ceiling showing where water had leaked into the production area where the peanut roasting line was, as well as finished roasted products stored in totes. In addition, finished and unfinished products were stored in close proximity.
In all, the FDA’s inspection report of the PCA facility in Blakely, Georgia details many more instances of situations where peanut product food safety measures were not taken, increasing the chance of contamination with not only bacteria, but also other foreign materials. More disturbing is that the report points out poor food safety practices that have been occurring since September and up through the date of their report, which was just released.
FDA inspection report: http://www.fda.gov/ora/frequent/483s/r_ATL-DO_PCA_Blakely_GA_Form_FDA_483_dtd_Jan_09-27_2009.pdf