More products recalled as Blakely plant investigation continues - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

More products recalled as Blakely plant investigation continues

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

January 19, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A peanut butter product recall expanded yet again Monday.

Even more products made with peanut butter or paste from plant in Blakely were recalled as 43 of the plant's 46 workers were laid off.

Monday the Meijer company launched a nationwide recalled of their sandwich crackers and ice cream. Peanut Corporation of America expanded their nationwide recall after salmonella was found in un-opened containers of peanut butter produced at the Blakely plant.

All operations have ceased at the Blakely plant while investigators start broad and try to narrow down the source of the Salmonella contamination. Company officials said it will be a slow process, that will leave the Blakely operation closed indefinitely.

It's not exactly the national attention the 5,700 residents of Blakely wanted.

"It's just unfortunate that we have to get the attention on something that's unfavorable like this," said Fred Foster of Blakely.

Since January ninth, the FDA has examined records and the process the Peanut Corporation of America uses to make peanut butter and paste. They want to know how a heat resistant strain of salmonella made it into un-opened jars of their product. The majority of the company's business is to the confection industry and they sell everything from five pound containers to tanker loads of paste to 24 states. Former employees say the plant has a good reputation.

"I use to work at the plant years ago and they were pretty good," said Gwen Lee, a former employee. While company officials didn't want to speak with us on camera they did say they are cooperating with investigators and actually they take great pride in the product they produce at this plant. They say whatever the outcome they just hope this strengthens the industry.

"You've got to bring it to the notice of people so you can protect yourself," said Foster.

Local peanut farmers, like Jessie Baskin who sells his crop to Peanut Corporation of America, worry how a second salmonella scare with peanut butter in southwest Georgia might affect the peanut industry.

"It has a big affect on me because my labor, my crops, God helping me at the end of the year when I pay my bills it cuts my cost, if I can't sell a good product," said Jessie Baskin, an Arlington peanut farmer.

As the list of recalled products continues to grow, both farmers and company officials say the longer the investigation, the worse the impact could be.

"They cut back on buying peanut butter or M&M's or candy stuff and it hurts real bad, real bad," said Baskin.

When we spoke to the CDC they had this advice for consumers, check their website for recalls before you leave your home for the grocery store, because the list of voluntarily recalled products is changing so rapidly. You can find a link to their website at www.cdc.gov.

The Peanut Corporation of America was producing 285,000 pounds of product a week before the plant was closed for the investigation.

So far, the FDA doesn't know where the salmonella came from. They said Friday they are investigating at least one peanut grower.

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