November 30, 2010
Texas health officials ordered a recall Thursday of every product ever shipped from a Plainview peanut processing plant since March 2005 after inspectors discovered the food production area had been contaminated.
Inspectors found dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a food production area at the Peanut Corp. of America’s Plainview plant, authorities from the Texas Department of State Health Services said Thursday.
The plant’s air handling system was not completely sealed and was pulling debris from the infested crawl space onto exposed food products in production areas. It was unclear whether products may have reached consumers as distributors took steps to pull items from stores shelves before they could be sold.
Although the plant began operations in March 2005 and employed 30 people, state health inspectors did not visit until last month because they didn’t know about the facility, said Doug McBride, a spokesman for the department.
He said the company failed to apply for a Texas license, which would have triggered an inspection — and inspectors had no way of knowing about it.
“Given the volume, we don’t have the luxury of doing a lot of detective work to find other manufacturers without a license,” McBride added, noting only 34 health inspectors are available to visit more than 17,000 food manufacturers in the state.
Most of the products processed at the plant were shipped to other food manufacturers, who used the items as ingredients, McBride said. He said inspectors have a list of potential end manufacturers but were not releasing names until they have confirmed those companies were actual customers.
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