Officials at the food plant in Blakely, Ga., responsible for the nationwide salmonella outbreak, knowingly shipped contaminated peanut butter and did not do anything to correct the mold growing on their walls and ceilings, Agence France-Presse reported.
The outbreak, which took place between Sept. 1 and Jan. 9, infected more than 500 people in 43 states, and one person in Canada, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC, along with the Food and Drug Administration, is conducting an investigation.
The recent salmonella outbreak may have contributed to eight deaths, according to the CDC.
According to the FDA, people became sick or died after consuming food products containing peanut butter produced at the Peanut Corporation of America.
"PCA distributed potentially contaminated product to more than 70 consignee firms, for use as an ingredient in hundreds of different products, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, candy and ice cream," the FDA said on its Web site.
A report by the FDA released Wednesday revealed 12 instances between June 2007 and September 2008 where the plant’s testing discovered its products were contaminated by salmonella. However, the company still shipped the product.
Upon inspection, mold was found inside the plant, including on the building’s ceilings and walls of the food cooler. It appeared roaches had made the plant their home as well.
The American Peanut Council articulated “shock and dismay” upon learning of the FDA’s report that the Peanut Corp. of America had knowingly shipped contaminated food products.
Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, fever and cramping. The illness can last four to seven days. About 1.4 million Americans develop salmonella each year and 400 die from it, according to the CDC.
A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the Peanut Corp. by the family of a 72-year-old Minnesota woman. The family alleges she died from salmonella poisoning.