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US salmonella peanut butter outcry

12th February 2009

Family members of those affected by the outbreak of salmonella in the US have expressed feelings of anger to a congressional committee.

peanuts

They wondered how the Peanut Corporation of America could have knowlingly sold tainted products.

Jeffrey Almer, whose mother was killed by the disease, said that the peanut butter she ate killed her.

He told the House of Representatives energy and commerce subcommittee that she had eaten the peanut butter while finishing treatment for a urinary tract infection.

News of her condition reached Almer several days before she was scheduled to return home.

So far at least 600 have contracted salmonella, and nine have died.

This is one of the largest product recalls in history, with more than 1800 products being taken off of shelves and out of homes and schools.

The most recent death was that of an elderly woman in Ohio.

The US Food and Drug Administration has determined that Peanut Corp knowingly shipped the tainted peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut paste products.

But Stewart Parnell, owner and president of Peanut Corp, refused to answer questions.

Parnell reportedly instructed people to ship the product after being warned on several occasions.

Parnell's only words to the committee were that, on advice of his counsel, he declined to answer questions.

Plant manager Sammy Lightsey was also silent.

Republican Representative Greg Walden of Oregon asked an unresponsive Parnell if he would be willing to eat any of the products he willingly shipped.

Lou Tousignant, whose father was killed as a result of ingesting tainted product, asked the committee to do its job.

Late last month, Peanut Corp issued a voluntary recall of all peanut products processed there in the last two years.

The FBI recently raided the company's headquarters in Lynchburg, Virginia, and a plant in Texas was recently closed.

Charles Deibel, president of Deibel Labratories, testified before the committee.

Though Peanut Corp employed them in testing for salmonella, the company also ignored responses of contamination.

Deibel said that it is not unusual for Deibel Labs or other food testing laboratories to find that samples clients submit test positive for salmonella and other pathogens, nor is it unusual that clients request that samples be retested, and that what is virtually unheard of is for an entity to disregard those results and place potentially contaminated products into the stream of commerce.

He said that the problem of product testing needs to be addressed more properly by US food safety guidelines.

 

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