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FDA NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 8, 2009

Media Inquiries:
Stephanie Kwisnek, 301-796-4737
Consumer Inquiries:
888-INFO-FDA


FDA Serves Warrant for Inspection of Westco Fruit and Nuts Inc.
New Jersey-based company received peanuts implicated in Salmonella outbreak; refused to provide access to records and refused to recall products

At the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Marshals today executed an inspection warrant at Westco Fruit and Nuts Inc. (Westco/Westcott), an Irvington, N.J.-based company. 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, which produces and distributes peanuts and peanut products, 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 effort to remove the affected product 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, Ga., 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.

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. The FDA urged consumers on March 23, 2009, to check their homes for peanut-derived products made by or distributed by Westco/Westcott and repeats that advice today. For those consumers who find Westco/Westcott products, they should dispose of the peanuts in a safe manner by placing them in a plastic bag, sealing the bag properly and placing in a trash bin; they should wash their hands after handling. Salmonella is bacterium that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

As of March 17, 2009, 691 people infected with Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 46 states, and infection may have contributed to nine deaths.

Healthy people infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (infected aneurysms, endocarditis, and arthritis).

For more information on the FDA's investigation into the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak, including a complete list of all the products being recalled, visit:
http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/salmonellatyph.html.

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