Thursday, January 29, 2009

Anatomy of a Peanut Butter Outbreak: The Build-Up

January 29, 2009

Peanut Corporation America is a privately held company, with operations in Texas, Virginia and Georgia. The Company was incorporated in 1983 as J.R. Britt Peanut Co., Inc. 

The following year, J.R. Britt changed its name to Georgia Food & Nut Processors, Inc. Five years later, in 1989, the name changed again – to Casey's Food Products, Inc. In 2001, the Company renamed itself once more, and became Peanut Corporation of America.

In 2006, FDA contracted with the Georgia Department of Agriculture to inspect PCA's Blakely, GA processing facility on behalf of the federal government. One assumes that FDA paid Georgia for this service.

An inspector from the GDA visited the Blakely facility twice yearly, beginning in January 2006. The inspections could hardly be called in-depth. The longest visit lasted four hours; the shortest "routine" inspection, carried out in October 2008, lasted just one hour and 40 minutes. The state drew samples for lab analysis on one occasion only – August 29, 2007. Salmonella was not detected in those samples.

During her October 2008 visit, state inspector Donna Adams recorded only two violations:
  • Totes returned from a customer were intended for reuse by this customer. The totes appeared to have residual peanut butter and a black buildup.
  • Mildew and possible static dust buildup on ceiling of peanut butter storage room.

The first violation was corrected on-site – the intended tote refill operation was suspended. PCA was instructed to correct the mildew and dust buildup by November 5, 2008.

Between June 2007 and continuing through September 2008, PCA received Salmonella-positive lab reports from the company's independent testing lab on 12 occasions. In all cases, the company arranged for a retesting of the contaminated product. On receiving a negative result from the repeat test, PCA shipped the product to its customer(s). 

The most recent Salmonella-positive result, obtained from a sample of peanut paste manufactured on September 25, 2008, was reported as Salmonella Typhimurium – the same serotype as the microbe responsible for the outbreak. 

There is no indication whether or not this Salmonella Typhimurium strain was a genetic match for the outbreak strain. But, according to CDC, the first outbreak victims became ill at the beginning of September 2008.

Continued in Anatomy of a Peanut Butter Outbreak: The Outbreak Investigation


  1. The link,, for "Company" is broken.

  2. Thank you. I have changed the link.


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