The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that U.S. marshals executed an inspection warrant at Westco Fruit and Nuts, Inc., in Irvington, New Jersey, after the company refused to recall its peanut products or provide access to distribution documents in the wake of the Salmonella outbreak involving peanuts from the Peanut Corp. of America (PCA).

An FDA spokesperson said, “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. FDA uses all appropriate legal means necessary to obtain information and fully investigate firms or individuals who put the health of consumers at risk.”

Apparently, Westco purchased oil-roasted and salted peanuts from PCA in November and December 2008. It sold them in various sizes and packages and used them as an ingredient in mixed nut and trail mix products. On February 9, 2009, New Jersey officials apparently executed an embargo action at Westco’s distribution facility to prevent the company from further distributing potentially contaminated products in its inventory. In March, the FDA formally requested that Westco recall products containing PCA peanuts and sought access to company records about their distribution.

The company refused both requests because, according to owner Jacob Moradi, the FDA did not provide proof that his peanuts contained Salmonella. “We have been requesting information to that effect, and they have not given us an iota of information whatsoever,” he reportedly said. Thus, when the FDA issued a public warning on March 23 against consuming Westco’s peanut products, specific brands or foods could not be and were not named. Some pointed to the incident as a weakness in the food safety system, because the FDA lacks mandatory recall authority. See Kansas City InfoZine, March 25, 2009; FDA Press Release, April 8, 2009.

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