Blakely plant apologizes, denies lab shopping complaint - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Blakely plant apologizes, denies lab shopping complaint

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

January 29, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Georgia plant at the center of the nationwide Salmonella investigation denies seeking favorable results from any lab before it shipped its products out.

Thursday the company also apologized to customers and clients saying they're sorry their process fell short of their goals and customers expectations.

Congress announced they'll hold hearings into the plant, and Governor Perdue ordered the GBI to investigate the plant. The army is now pulling some peanut butter items from its warehouses.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture says the Peanut Corporation of America knew its peanut products were tainted with Salmonella but sent them out anyway. The Blakely plant was shut down after FDA and State Inspectors found a list of problems including mold, roaches, and a leaky roof.

The Department of Agriculture says the company's own tests found evidence of Salmonella, but by law they never had to show those tests to inspectors.

"It was very shocking to us to see the proof that lab shopping was going on," said Oscar Garrison, Georgia Deputy Agriculture Commissioner.

The company however sees it differently. In a statement released by the Parnell Family and Peanut Corporation of America they say they've taken extraordinary measures to get unsafe products off store shelves and they deny any lab shopping. They say the FDA's documents contain some inaccuracies and don't mention the corrective actions the company's taken. Food Safety Advocates blame the FDA.

"FDA was not following this plant closely enough, was following up on Georgia state inspections which were finding several problems over the years, and that's very worrisome," says Sarah Klein, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

More than 400 types of peanut products have been pulled off store shelves and more than 500 have been sickened. Eight people have died including 72 year old Shirley Mae Almer.

"It breaks out hearts that they could not actually take the care to make the peanut butter safe for the people they were distributing it for," said Ginger Lorentz, Victim's daughter.

"All Lance Peanut Butter crackers are safe," said the YouTube video.

With all the talk of bad peanut butter the nations largest maker of peanut butter sandwich crackers is using YouTube to spread the word their products are safe.

Lance isn't the only one, Thursday Hershey's also said its popular Reese's products are not involved.

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