01.30.09

Leahy Calls For Criminal Investigation Into Peanut-Salmonella Outbreak

WASHINGTON (Friday, Jan. 30) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is calling for a criminal investigation of Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), which, according to a report by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), knowingly sold peanut products containing salmonella.  The salmonella outbreak has resulted in one of the largest food recalls in history and has been linked to the deaths of eight people, and more than 500 people have fallen ill.

The outbreak has affected  people in 43 states.  In Vermont, four cases have been linked to products from PCA, including the case of seven-year-old Christopher Meunier of South Burlington, who was hospitalized late last year for six days after he developed salmonella poisoning. 

“It is clear that the behavior of the Peanut Corporation of America was egregious – harming hundreds of Americans and endangering many thousands more,” Leahy wrote.  “We believe it is critical to determine whether the actions and omissions of this company rose to the level of criminal conduct.  If crimes were committed, those responsible must be identified and held accountable.”

Peanut Corporation of America is said to have supplied peanut butter for more than 180 products produced by food companies across the country.  According to the FDA, the PCA identified salmonella in some of its products in June 2007.  The FDA report also revealed unclean and contaminated facilities at PCA’s production plant.

Joining Leahy in sending the letter to Acting Attorney General Mark Filip was Representative Rosa L. DeLauro, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Food and Drug Administration.

The full text of the letter follows.  A PDF is also available online.

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January 30, 2009

The Honorable Mark R. Filip

Acting Attorney General

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Dear Acting Attorney General Filip:

We are writing to urge you to launch a criminal investigation into the dealings of the Peanut Corporation of America.  This company knowingly sold peanut products after tests revealed the presence of Salmonella, and these products have now been linked to the deaths of eight people and have sickened over 500 others.

Through its investigation, the Food and Drug Administration has determined that Peanut Corporation of America knowingly distributed potentially contaminated product after samples tested positive for salmonella more than a dozen times in the past two years to more than 100 consignee firms, for use as an ingredient in hundreds of different food products.  In addition to knowingly selling these tainted products, Peanut Corporation of America also shopped for a laboratory that would provide the acceptable results they were seeking after initial tests found their products to be contaminated.  This Salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter products is now linked to eight deaths and has sickened approximately 500 people across the country, forcing one of the largest food recalls in history.

It is clear that the behavior of the Peanut Corporation of America was egregious – harming hundreds of Americans and endangering many thousands more.  We believe it is critical to determine whether the actions and omissions of this company rose to the level of criminal conduct.  If crimes were committed, those responsible must be identified and held accountable.

Given the grave importance of this matter, we would appreciate a response and immediate action by the Department into launching a criminal investigation of the Peanut Corporation of America.

Sincerely, 

PATRICK LEAHY                                        ROSA DELAURO  
United States Senator                                     United States Representative

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