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Georgia Salmonella Outbreak May Lead to Greater Food Safety

In the days since we were first informed that the nationwide salmonella food poisoning outbreak originated at a Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia, the death toll from the outbreak has reached 9, the number of people sickened from salmonella tainted products has risen to 19,000 and food poisoning lawsuits have been filed.

Last week, Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corporation of America was summoned to Washington to testify at a congressional hearing. Meanwhile, skeletons have been tumbling at the PCA.Former employees at the Blakely plant have come forward to sing like canaries about the abhorrent sanitation practices at the plant. According to one employee, he once found baby mice inside a packet of peanuts. The same employee also claims that he has been witness to the practice of pasting new stickers on jars of old peanut paste, and has seen holes drilled by rats in sacks of peanuts. A new FDA report also indicates that management at the Georgia plant continued to ship out products that they knew had tested positive for salmonella contamination. According to the report, the company continued to retest its products until test results showed findings that were more to its liking – that the peanut butter was salmonella free.

The concern over products from the Georgia plant is so intense that the FDA has asked consumers to throw out any peanut butter products made at the plant over the past 2 years.

The fallout from the salmonella peanut butter scandal has been huge. Food poisoning lawyers are now adding punitive damages to their product liability lawsuits against Peanut Corporation America because of the fact that plant management continued to ship out peanut butter even after they had knowledge of its contamination.

In Georgia, lawmakers have introduced a bill enabling health officials to conduct inspections of food processing plants. The legislation would also mandate companies to report these inspection results to regulating authorities. In the nation’s capital too, efforts to upgrade food inspection standards are being made. Several new bills are being developed to overhaul food safety standards in the country, and these include requiring companies to report their food testing results to state or federal authorities.