Texas Plant Fined Millions After Salmonella Outbreak

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The shuttered Texas plant owned by a peanut
company blamed in a national salmonella outbreak that sickened
nearly 700 people was fined a record $14.6 million on Thursday.

The state fined Plainview Peanut Corp. LLC over violations that
include unsanitary conditions, product contamination, illnesses
linked to peanuts from the plant and operating for almost four
years without a food manufacturer's license, the Texas Department
of State Health Services said.

Spokesman Doug McBride said the fine was the largest ever levied
by the department.

"We felt the assessment of the administrative fines needed to
be done regardless of financial situations," he said, referring to
bankruptcy filings by the plant's owner, Peanut Corp. of America.
"If there is a violation, the penalties need to be assessed,
period."

The agency said it sent a notice of violation to the Plainview
plant on Wednesday.

The plant voluntarily closed Feb. 9 after a private lab sample
showed likely salmonella contamination. Texas health officials
later ordered a recall of products processed there.

Andy Goldstein, an attorney handling the bankruptcy case for
Lynchburg, Va.-based Peanut Corp., didn't immediately return a
phone call seeking comment.

In January, federal investigators identified a Georgia peanut
processing plant operated by Peanut Corp. as the source of the
salmonella outbreak, believed to be the cause of at least nine
deaths.

At the Texas plant, inspectors found that a ventilation system
was pulling debris from an infested crawl space into production
areas. The plant was ordered by the state to stop producing and
distributing food products.

Thousands of possibly contaminated consumer products were
recalled in one of the country's largest product recalls.


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