NewsChannel 11 goes in-depth after learning a Plainview peanut plan, run by the same company blamed for a national salmonella outbreak, had never been checked by state health inspectors. The Peanut Corporation of America Plant in Plainview opened in March of 2005. Since then, a report obtained by the Associated Press reveals health inspectors never checked the facility until after the Food and Drug Administration launched an investigation into its parent company.
NewsChannel 11 explains what happened, and spoke with some community members to find out what they think about it. We also learned what products the plant makes and who receives them, and we'll also tell you how many people the Plainview facility employs.
What's important for consumers is that once health inspectors did check the plant, they did not find any Salmonella. Now, the question is why did this plant go unchecked for so long? NewsChannel 11 took a tour of the plant in August 2005, five months after the Peanut Corporation of America opened the plant in Plainview. Nearly four years later, in January of 2009, state health inspectors checked the facility for the first time.
That's after federal investigators traced a nationwide, Salmonella outbreak to another plant in Georgia owned by the same company. Texas requires food manufacturers to be licensed every two years and routinely inspected. The Plainview plant inspection found neither.
Doug McBride from the Department of State Health Services told the Associated Press that Texas doesn't have enough money or inspectors to catch companies that don't comply. The state inspection cited some unsanitary conditions, but according to their report, several internal lab tests dating back to November found no Salmonella contaminants.
FDA Inspectors went through after the state inspection and found no salmonella as well. According to the state report, plant manager Jesus Garrocho stated he's sent Texas Health Department forms to the company's Virginia headquarters more than a year ago, and he didn't know why the licensing forms were not completed.
"If they're not licensed, then I don't see how they could be operating," Steve Hernandez said. The lack of proper licensing and inspections worried some Plainview residents. "That worries me, because management is management and if that's the way they ran the other one, what's to say this one isn't doing the same thing," Elizabeth Michael said.
"I feel like if there is a problem, people could get sick, they have a right to know," Hernandez said. NewsChannel 11 spoke with the plant manager on the phone Tuesday afternoon. He directed us to corporate media for comment. We left a message, but they did not returned our call by news time. State inspectors plan another inspection at the Plainview plant in the coming weeks.
Now, we want to tell you what the Plainview facility makes. The plant blanches; dry roasts, oil-roasts, and chops peanuts. They then ship them to food companies across the country. During our 2005 visit the former plant manager told us most of their customers are ice cream manufacturers, bakeries, and candy stores
We also spoke with the Plainview Chamber of Commerce Tuesday. They tell us the Peanut Corporation of America Plant is a member, and while the plant manager could not comment on inspections or licensing, he did tell us his facility employs approximately 30-people.
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