DALLAS – Texas health officials ordered the recall Thursday of peanut products from a plant operated by the company at the center of a national salmonella outbreak, days after tests indicated the likely presence of the bacteria there.
Peanut Corp. of America was ordered to recall all products ever shipped from its plant in Plainview after the Texas Department of State Health Services said it found dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area on Wednesday.
Health Department spokesman Doug McBride said it was up to Peanut Corp. to inform its clients around the country of the recall. It wasn’t immediately clear if the company was complying: Phone messages seeking comment from the company weren’t returned, and no information regarding the Texas action was posted on the company’s site.
However, even before the order, many customers of the Texas plant said they had begun holding products back, pulling them from shelves or running their own tests.
The order regarding the plant, which operated unlicensed and uninspected for nearly four years, is the latest bad news for the company being investigated in connection with an outbreak that has sickened 600 people and may have caused at least nine deaths. More than 2,000 possibly contaminated consumer products have already been recalled in one of the largest product recalls ever.
Federal investigators last month identified a Georgia peanut processing plant operated by Peanut Corp. as the source of the salmonella outbreak.
Texas inspectors also found that the air handling system was pulling debris from the infested crawl space into production areas at the Plainview plant that processed dry roasted peanuts, peanut meal and granulated peanuts. The plant, which voluntarily closed Monday, was also ordered by the state to stop producing and distributing food products.
McBride said he did not know the volume of products that needed to be pulled back.
Private lab tests returned Monday showed likely salmonella contamination at the plant, which opened in March 2005. Further testing was needed to confirm the results, but the health department said Thursday that their orders are not contingent on finding salmonella.