Peanut Corporation of America to Liquidate
The peanut company at the center of a salmonella scandal filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday, saying the extensive recalls of its products left it no choice but to close.
The Peanut Corporation of America filed for liquidation under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy law in Virginia, where it is headquartered.
“This bankruptcy filing, while regrettable, will allow for an orderly liquidation of the company,” said Andrew S. Goldstein, a lawyer representing the peanut firm.
The company is the subject of a federal criminal investigation for allegedly sending out batches of peanut products that it knew to be contaminated with salmonella. Company officials could not be located for comment and have not spoken publicly since the outbreak began.
To date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tied 637 illnesses to the salmonella outbreak, and it is believed to have caused nine deaths. More than 2,000 products have been recalled that contain peanuts, peanut butter or peanut paste from the company.
The outbreak has also refocused attention on the nation’s frayed food safety net, with members of Congress and of the Obama administration calling for major reforms.
The outbreak originally focused on the company’s Blakely, Ga., plant, where investigators from the Food and Drug Administration found a leaky roof, mold and roaches. But the company closed a subsidiary in Plainview, Tex., this week, after salmonella was found there, too.
Texas state officials have ordered a recall of all products ever shipped from the Plainview plant, which began operations in March 2005, after inspectors found rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above the production area.
In a related matter, Texas officials said Friday they had fired an inspector who certified the Plainview plant for organic production. The Texas Department of Agriculture said the inspector had indicated that the company had provided proper documentation. The plant was initially certified as organic in November 2005.
But after the salmonella outbreak unfolded, starting in mid-January, state officials learned that the plant did not have a state health certificate, as required, and “found that the inspector accepted incomplete information,” according to a statement.
The state agriculture department issued a notice to revoke the plant’s organic certification once it learned of the problems at the plant. A spokeswoman for the Texas agency declined to identify the inspector or to elaborate on the state’s organic certification of the plant.