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Published: Wednesday, 2/11/2009

Salmonella possible at peanut firm's Texas plant


ATLANTA - Private lab tests show salmonella may have been present at a second plant operated by the peanut company at the center of a national outbreak, but the potentially tainted products were not sent to consumers, Texas health officials said yesterday.

The Peanut Corp. of America plant in Plainview, Texas, had operated unlicensed and uninspected for nearly four years, heightening food safety concerns already swirling around the company. Although no recalls related to the plant were announced yesterday, federal inspectors have begun looking for any signs of problems similar to those found at a company plant in Georgia identified as the source of the salmonella outbreak.

Peanut Corp. temporarily closed the Texas plant Monday night at the request of health officials after tests found "the possible presence of salmonella" in some of its products, the Texas Department of Health said.

The Texas plant produces peanut meal, granulated peanuts, and dry-roasted peanuts. Texas state health officials said that possibly contaminated peanut meal and granulated peanuts had not been sent to customers. Potentially contaminated dry roasted peanuts were shipped to a distributor but were caught before reaching the public, state officials said.

Former workers at the Texas plant told the New York Times that the facility shared many of the problems found in the plant in Georgia. Kenneth Kendrick, a former assistant manager of the Texas plant, said the plant had a leaky roof, rodent infestation, and poor process controls.

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