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Unknown Food Plants Alarm Lawmaker

Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee says he's surprised a peanut plant in Texas operated uninspected and unlicensed for nearly four years.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee says he's surprised a Texas peanut plant run by a company responsible for a national salmonella outbreak operated uninspected and unlicensed for nearly four years.

Sen. Tom Harkin asked during a hearing Thursday if he should be alarmed by this and asked federal health officials how many other food plants are operating off the radar without regular inspections.

Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's food safety chief, told Harkin each state handles licensing and inspections differently.

The Associated Press reported this week that the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Plainview, Texas, didn't register with state health officials after opening in March 2005 and only recently was discovered and inspected by Texas health officials.

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