31 million pounds of peanut butter recalled - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

31 million pounds of peanut butter recalled

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

January 23, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Thirty-one million pounds of peanut butter and paste have now been recalled as part of a federal Salmonella investigation involving a south Georgia plant.

Friday FDA inspectors again met with plant officials wanting more information on where the plant purchased peanuts and who they ship product to.

The FDA has confirmed they found Salmonella in the plant, but say it doesn't match the strains in the product. Two weeks ago Friday, FDA inspectors began their investigation at the Blakely plant.

Friday they sat in the board room at the end of the office with plant officials wanting more information about what's come in and gone out of the plant. The plants closure that left 43 employees laid off has hit the community hard.

"Right now the community has really had just a one, two punch. I was talking with a cohort from Atlanta yesterday telling her about our layoffs and our situation and she said too bad you can't apply for disaster relief because, I think that's sort of the morale we feel like we've been hit hard," said Hilary Halford, Blakely, Early County Chamber of Commerce President.

We spoke with several employees off camera who admit the building is old and has problems, but said Peanut Corporation of America has done what it can to maintain it. Employees have already begun filing for unemployment benefits.

"It seems rather unfair for to sort of find them guilty before we have a definitive answer and you do wonder and just talking to friends here in the community what kind of damage has been done to their reputation and how long will it take for them to rebuild that," said Halford.

WALB News 10 has learned the plant is annually inspected by the American Institute of Baking and the Department of Agriculture. During an inspection in June some violations were found and corrected by the company, but the FDA wouldn't say what the violations were.

An FDA spokesman also said strains of Salmonella have been found in a floor crack in the plant near the washroom and a second on the floor behind some pallets, but their not the same strain of Salmonella that's been found in peanut butter containers or product. While the community continues to rally around the facility, the investigation remains open.

"I think everyone would like to find out the root of the problem at the Peanut Corporation of America and go on and get back to a regular day and I know the community here would love to see that," said Halford.

Investigators continue to search for answers why six people died and 488 people were sickened by Salmonella bacteria in 43 states.

Friday WALB News Ten made an open records request to the Department of Agriculture asking to see the previous inspection reports from the Blakely plant.

We've been told those records are part of the ongoing investigation and may not be available.

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