The company responsible for the salmonella outbreak is finally being hauled before Congress – kicking and screaming, it seems. The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding hearings today and asked the president of Peanut Corporation of America, Stewart Parnell, to appear. He refused, without a subpoena! (which the committee issued Tuesday). The committee will show that “Even after a major 2007 salmonella outbreak sickened more than 600 and cleared store shelves of peanut butter jars, the Food and Drug Administration didn't increase salmonella testing at another peanut processing facility that is now the epicenter of the latest salmonella outbreak.”
Meanwhile, to update a couple of our early posts (here and here), another former plant employee has come forward saying that he once opened a container of peanuts and discovered several baby mice. He also said he witnessed coworkers put “new” stickers on buckets of old peanut paste, and seeing bags of nuts with holes in them, apparently caused by burrowing rats. Even worse, said the former employee, “they would put tape on them or sew them up and send them out.”
In the meantime, a new report by the FDA indicating that the company knowingly shipped contaminated peanut butter has led lawyers to tack on a punitive damages claim to its earlier lawsuit. In fact, on 12 occasions in 2007 and 2008, tests conducted by Peanut Corp. found salmonella contamination in its products—but rather than discard them, the company had them retested until it got the result it liked (i.e., one showing no contamination) and sold the stuff anyway.
And now Kellogg has been added as a defendant. Apparently Kellogg, which manufactured peanut butter crackers out of the toxic goo, conducted at least two of its own inspections through a third party in 2008, and you guessed it--gave it the thumbs up.