More than 1,550 peanut products have now been removed from store shelves because of a widespread salmonella outbreak that has prompted one of the largest recalls in history. With an ongoing criminal investigation focused on Peanut Corporation of America, Congress will further examine the problem during a Wednesday hearing on Capitol Hill.
Below is a timeline of the company's dealings with the Food and Drug Administration -- compiled from Senate testimony, documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, local news reports and updates from the Peanut Corporation of America and the FDA.
1990 -- The FDA cites the Virginia-based Peanut Corporation of America for shipping peanut products containing aflatoxins, according to documents filed in Bedford County Circuit Court. Reported by the Lynchburg News and Advance, the presence of the toxic compound produced by fungi results in a recall and at least one lawsuit against Peanut Corporation of America.
Nov. 15, 2001 -- The FDA inspects a PCA plant "to determine disposition of a lot of blanched peanut splits that contained 71 ppb aflatoxins," according to the inspection report. The report finds the company was "unable to bring the lot into compliance and it was subsequently sold for use as a wild bird feed." It also documents "ill-repaired equipment, spaces that could permit pest ingress into the plant, and webbing and dead beetles found on several bags of Sunflower Kernels on a pallet in the warehouse." Plant management promises to correct the problems. The FDA did not find any products adulterated by rodents or insects. In 2001, Peanut Corporation of America was not manufacturing peanut butter and was instead registered as a peanut roaster and blancher.
2006 -- Georgia tells the FDA that the Blakely plant is producing peanut butter.
Sept. 4, 2007 -- Inspectors with the Georgia Department of Agriculture complete a 13-day examination of Peanut Corporation of America's Blakely plant under an FDA/state contract. The inspection documents that the plant was producing peanut butter, peanut paste and peanut meal in addition to its other products. The inspection finds an uncovered product in a storage area, a damaged lid on a tank and a damaged wall that was difficult to clean. Each of those problems were corrected.
April 11, 2008 -- A Canadian distributor refuses a shipment of chopped peanuts from the Peanut Corporation because the peanuts contained metal fragments.
June 17, 2008 -- Under an FDA/state contract, the Georgia Department of Agriculture completes a seven-day inspection of the Blakely plant. Obtained by a FOIA request, the inspection report documents unsanitary conditions that were corrected during the inspection. Those findings include "steel wool pad in butter room used for cleaning not approved due to possible contamination, scraper used to work final bulk tank improperly stored above reject tank also no cleaning and sanitizing schedule for scraper, and dust build up on fan in butter fill area." According to the report, the FDA also requests that metal detection be evaluated because of the recently rejected peanut shipment. "The firm's procedure seems adequate for regular runs of product however the product in question was not checked for metal because of the metal/foil bags used in the original shipment that was rejected," the report states.