No state charges ahead for PCA

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The State of Georgia will not pursue criminal charges against a Blakely peanut butter processor at the center of a nationwide Salmonella outbreak.

Officials with the GBI say the only potential charges could be reckless conduct and adulteration of food, and they would bring only minor penalties.

The Food and Drug Administration will continue their criminal investigation of the plant.

According to the CDC, at least 575 people in 43 states have been sickened with Salmonella.

The outbreak may have contributed to the deaths of at least eight people.

The voluntary recall of food items made with products from the Blakely plant is the largest recall ever, and now includes 1,300 items.

It's a huge undertaking for grocery and convenience stores who are working feverishly to keep up with the growing list.  Some stores have even gone as far as calling customers who may have bought recalled products to let them know.

Keeping up with the ever growing list of recalled products that could be tainted with salmonella isn't easy. It now includes more than 1,300 items overwhelming many in the grocery store aisles and the stores.

"I'm cautious," said Ron Carter. "I'm looking at labels and making sure if I can tell it's not from this particular source."

Stores like Winn Dixie have posted signs on their front doors warning customers about the recall. As the list updates they're removing product from their shelves, but in case a product slipped by they've also flagged the bar codes so items can't be sold. Many customers are shying away from peanut products altogether.

"I enjoy peanuts and peanut butter, but I haven't bought anything since all this began," Kimberly Umbarger.

Sam's Club even went through sales records, identified customers who may have bought recalled products, and sent them a letter or called them to let them know they may have the recalled product in their homes.

"It makes you want to shop here more often, if they're going to take the time to call you and are that concerned, yeah," Brenda Malone said.

The Department of Agriculture's inspectors have also made more frequent visits to convenience stores like Woodall's to make sure they've checked the list and cleared their shelves. It's all an unprecedented effort to keep you safe in the middle of an unprecedented recall.

Federal inspectors revealed 2001 inspection reports of the Blakely plant that show some of its equipment was exposed to insecticides.

Inspectors also found dirty duct tape on broken equipment, dead insects around peanuts, and gaps around the door.

The problems are similar to FDA findings more recently at the plant.