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FDA Serves Warrant for Inspection of NJ Nut Distributor

(Westco/Westcott), an Irvington, New Jersey-based processor and distributor of peanut products. Westco/Westcott did not provide access to distribution documents and declined to recall products after an FDA request. Regulated companies are required by law to grant FDA entry for inspection, as well as provide access to distribution records. The FDA does not have authority to compel companies to recall food products, such as peanuts.

The company reportedly received peanuts and peanut product from the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), a Georgia company that recalled products in January due to concerns of Salmonella contamination. Despite PCA's efforts to remove affected products from the market and FDA's intervention, Westco/Westcott has refused to recall its products.

"FDA's enforcement action against Westco Fruit and Nuts is an appropriate step toward removing potentially harmful products from the marketplace, especially when, as in this case, a company is unwilling to share information FDA needs to ensure food safety," said Michael Chappell, the FDA's acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. "The FDA uses all appropriate legal means necessary to obtain information and fully investigate firms or individuals who put the health of consumers at risk."

On March 23, 2009, the FDA formally requested Westco/Westcott to initiate a recall of all of its products containing peanuts from PCA because such products may be contaminated with Salmonella. On March 26, 2009, the FDA also issued a formal notice to Westco/Westcott requesting access to certain records concerning the distribution of PCA peanut containing products. The company declined both requests.

Investigations by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified products from PCA's Blakely, Georgia, facility as a source of the current Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak. These efforts led to PCA's recall of peanuts and peanut-derived products.

Between Nov. 19, 2008, and Dec. 30, 2008, Westco/Westcott received three shipments of Oil Roasted Salted Redskin Jumbo Peanuts from PCA's Georgia facility, according to FDA. Westco/Westcott sold these peanuts in various size/packaging configurations and also used them as an ingredient in a variety of mixed nut products and trail mix produced between Nov. 19, 2008, and early February 2009.

On Feb. 9, 2009, New Jersey officials executed an embargo action at Westco/Westcott's distribution facility to prevent the company from further distributing potentially contaminated peanuts or peanut-derived products in the company's inventory.

The FDA has no reports of illness or death at this time associated with consumption of Westco/Westcott products.

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