ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Inspection reports reveal sanitation problems inside the south Georgia peanut butter plant at the center of a nationwide Salmonella outbreak.
Monday we get our first glimpse at inspections of the plant that's believed to be the source of a huge peanut butter recall. The plant was shut down January ninth and product from as far back as June was voluntarily recalled.
Our WALB News 10 investigation shows that in the last three years, the plant has been cited for 32 violations.
From January 2006 through December 2007 the Georgia Department of Agriculture cited the Peanut Corporation of America more than two dozen times. From dirty floors, and duct taped equipment, to jars without lids and machinery caked with grease. Inspections show 27 violations in a two year period. Still, in the scheme of things, no violations that inspectors deemed significant.
"No real serious violations that we discovered and they were corrected on site before our inspector left the premise," said Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin.
The August 22, 2006 report reflected the most violations. Peanut Corporation of America was cited four times for dust and grease build up on the butter room pre- tables, old food residue, dirt and grease buildup on several pieces of equipment, and dirt and old food residue on the bulk item containers. The roll up doors in the Warehouse had a gap, and the inspector observes an entry point for rodents.
"Like we said the critical violations were corrected within a couple of day after the inspection," said Oscar Garrison, Georgia Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner of Consumer Protections. Nearly a year later the plant had no violations on its August report or the report in December of 2007.
Late Monday afternoon, WALB News 10 obtained inspections made seven months ago, just a few months before this salmonella outbreak. In June 2008, the company was cited for three violations which included inadequate ventilation and lighting and a scraper for the final bulk tank that was left over reject product. In October there were questions over a process to reuse containers that apparently came back with black buildup.
"They were shipping out product in 1,700 pound totes and they were going to refill those and they had some issues when they got it back of it not being cleaned properly so they discontinued that practice," said Garrison.
The only lab samples of products from the plant during that time were samples returned in September of 2007.
In three products including salted and unsalted peanuts and peanut butter all three tested negative for Salmonella, which means investigators will continue looking for the link between this small South Georgia plant and a nationwide salmonella outbreak.
Records released by the Georgia Department of Agriculture give no indication that samples were taken for salmonella testing during two routine inspections last year at the Blakely plant.
More than 125 products have been voluntarily recalled in association with the Salmonella outbreak. Six people have died and the CDC has confirmed 491 cases of Salmonella in 43 states.