An attorney representing victims of the salmonella outbreak says he saw leaks and openings animals could crawl into while touring a Peanut Corp. of America processing plant in Texas.
DENVER (AP) - Six salmonella cases in Colorado have been linked to tainted products from a shuttered Texas plant owned by the peanut processing company at the focal point of a national outbreak of the disease.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment linked the cases to the Plainview Peanut Co. in the Texas Panhandle, The Oregonian newspaper in Portland reported Saturday. The Colorado victims were between the ages of 2 and 60. One had to be hospitalized, the newspaper reported.
The Plainview plant, owned by Peanut Corp. of America, had operated since 2005 without an inspection, authorities have said.
On Thursday, Texas health officials ordered the recall of all peanut-related ingredients ever shipped from the Plainview plant. Inspectors found dead rodents and feces, and preliminary tests by a private lab indicated salmonella was present.
A Texas health official confirmed Saturday that they knew some Colorado salmonella cases were possibly linked to the Plainview plant, which was shut down after the inspection.
"It's certainly not a surprise to us," said Doug McBride, spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The salmonella cases in Colorado were traced to peanut butter from Lakewood-based Vitamin Cottage. The natural foods chain recalled its Vitamin Cottage Fresh-Ground Peanut butter last week.
Vitamin Cottage could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday evening.
In a statement last week, though, Vitamin Cottage officials said they'd been notified by Colorado authorities that three people had salmonella after eating the peanut butter in late December or early January. Vitamin Cottage has 25 stores in Colorado, plus stores in Texas, New Mexico and Utah.
The salmonella outbreak has sickened some 600 people in 43 states and is being linked to nine deaths. More than 1,900 products have been recalled, and Peanut Corp. of America is under FBI investigation and filed for bankruptcy Friday. Leading brands of jarred peanut butter are not affected.
Alicia Cronquist, epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told The Oregonian that 16 people in the state have been sickened by tainted peanut butter, six of them linked to peanut butter from Vitamin Cottage and the Texas plant.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)