Saturday, February 7, 2009


updated 5:01 a.m. ET, Fri., Feb. 6, 2009

WASHINGTON - Peanut Corporation of America sold 32 truckloads of roasted peanuts and peanut butter to the federal government for a free-lunch program for poor children even as the company's internal tests showed that its products were contaminated with salmonella bacteria.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture abruptly suspended its contract with the company, which is at the center of an outbreak of salmonella illness that has killed eight people, sickened 575 and triggered one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history.

The fact that a federal agency that shares responsibility for keeping food safe was among the thousands of customers that may have received tainted food from the Blakely, Ga., plant is the latest revelation in a scandal that has exposed an array of failures in the government's systems for keeping deadly pathogens out of the food supply.

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