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A strained food safety system

By Robert Bazell, NBC News Chief science correspondent

First of all, as we have done all along while reporting on this outbreak, we urge anyone who is concerned about a peanut flavored product to check the FDA's website for a list of recalled products.
 
If you are concerned about a product containing peanuts that is not on the list, the FDA advises you go on the website of the company or to call the toll-free number
that can be found on most packages.
 
Today as this story continued to unfold, we learned a lot about how the system we have for food inspection is severely strained. Ultimately, the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration is responsible for the safety of most non-meat food manufacturing facilities. But as an FDA official explained to me, the agency has only 4,000 to

5,000 inspectors for the entire country, so it often contracts to states to carry out the inspections.
 
In the case of the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia, the Department of Agriculture got paid for the task. And today at a news conference, the
deputy commissioner Oscar Garrison said his agency's inspections could only be "snapshots," because the agency has only 60 inspectors to check out 16,000

manufacturing facilities in the state.
 
Perhaps that explains the horrible mess the FDA found in the plant when it inspected the facility in the past few weeks. You can view the details of the FDA's

inspection here. The  inspection reported, among other things, "mold was observed on the ceiling," "rain water has been leaking into the firm," a sink was used "interchangeably as a point for cleaning hands and utensils and washing out mops," there was a "slimy, black-brown residue" on a conveyor belt and "a live roach and several dead roaches." 
 
It is difficult to understand how ten visits in three years could have not found at least some of that.

 

Click here to view Robert Bazell's Jan. 29 report, "Dirty secrets: Lax food safety exposed."