PCA e-mails show company's reaction to salmonella contamination - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

3/20/09

PCA e-mails show company's reaction to salmonella contamination

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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - NewsChannel 11 showed you photographs of the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Plainview. Congress released the pictures as part of a U.S. House Committee meeting on food safety. The photographs are more proof of violations which include dead rats and rat droppings. 

Congress released e-mails between PCA and other food executives. Part of what was discussed at the congressional meeting was the "cozy relationship" between the food inspectors and the companies they inspect.

Last August AIB, a food safety audit company, awarded Plainview a "Superior Certificate of Achievement." E-mails show an even bigger problem.

On December 22, 2008 a PCA employee received an e-mail from AIB before the audit. In the e-mail the auditor wrote, "you lucky guy, I'm your AIB auditor."  In that same e-mail the auditor also wanted PCA to know of new standards that had been implemented so the company wouldn't lose any points of its inspection.

"How do auditors go in and not spot this in the beginning. How did this company get a clean third party audit? Something is wrong with the system," said Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon.  

According to its Website, AIB says it's committed to protecting the food chain. Flash forward a few weeks, as the story of the salmonella outbreak spread on January 7th PCA President Stewart Parnell sent an e-mail to Joe Valenza with King Nut Companies. Parnell attached a news article from MSNBC regarding the outbreak and said, "Joe, I'm sure it's something we did. Haven't heard anything yet, but we'll let you know," writes Parnell.

E-mails show that ten minutes later Valenza responded saying he was recalling everything. Six minutes after that at 5:28 p.m. Stewart Parnell replied, "now my heart is really in my throat. I think I'm going to church tonight."

It was six days after that e-mail exchange took place that PCA President Parnell voluntarily closed the Blakely, Georgia plant.

3/20/09
Pictures released from Plainview peanut plantNow we get to see inside the Plainview Peanut Plant which is now blamed for some of the salmonella illnesses across the country.  NewsChannel 11's Katie Bauer has more. 

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