FDA: Warrant Served on New Jersey Company That Refused to Recall Tainted Peanuts

U.S. marshalls served a warrant on a New Jersey company that has refused to recall peanut products at the center of a major salmonella outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

The FDA said Westco Fruit and Nuts Inc., an Irvington, New Jersey-based company, has refused to provide access to distribution documents and declined to recall products after an FDA request. The warrant seeks access to the records.

The FDA said the company, which produces and distributes peanuts and peanut products, received shipments from the Peanut Corporation of America, a Georgia company that went into bankruptcy and closed two plants in Georgia and Texas after inspectors traced the salmonella outbreaks to them.

"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," the FDA's Michael Chappell said in a statement.

The agency said companies are required by law to grant FDA entry for inspection, as well as provide access to distribution records, but the FDA cannot force companies to recall food products, such as peanuts.

The salmonella outbreak, which began in September, has affected hundreds of companies and led to the recall of more than 3,200 products from crackers to ice cream. The government says more than 680 people in 46 states became ill after eating contaminated peanut products.

Members of Congress have pledged to reform the FDA's food inspection program.