Ex-Worker Describes Unsanitary Peanut Plant

Former employee recalls instances at Peanut Corp. of America where workers didn’t use gloves, sneezed on products and scooped up peanuts from the floor to be reused.

PLAINVIEW, Texas (AP) -- A former employee of the Peanut Corp. of America plant in Plainview said he was not surprised the facility, at the center of a national salmonella outbreak, had been shuttered after preliminary tests showed possible salmonella contamination.

The Texas Department of State Health Services last week recalled all products ever shipped from the plant after it found dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area on Wednesday. The Lynchburg, Va.-based Peanut Corp. of America filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy Friday.

Former PCA employee, David Longoria, an employee from 2007-'08, recalled seeing the crew working the production lines sneeze on products in open bags.

"Everything was pretty much cool when I first started, but a month later I started seeing people touch the peanuts without plastic gloves," he said in a story for the Plainview Daily Herald.

He recalled an occasion when peanuts spilled out of the bin. He alleges that his manager told the crew to scoop up the peanuts with their hands or shovels off the dirty floor to be reused.

Longoria was in charge of cleaning an oil roaster.

"We cleaned the oil roaster out every week by getting all the peanut skins and tossing them into hot water, then we would put the old oil right back in," he said.

"They would say, 'Just don't tell (plant manager) Jesus (Garrocho),' " he said.

Garrocho denied the allegations.

"I was the operations manager for PCA since late May 2007. I can only speak for conditions while I was there. We operated under good manufacturing practices. I do not feel that it is appropriate to respond to each one of the statements by the ex-employees, since this matter is still under investigation by federal and state agencies.

"Contrary to many reports, the plant was routinely inspected by various agencies, groups and customers, in addition to a third party auditor that was contact for annual inspections," Garrocho said.

Every fourth month the crew took out half of the old oil and replaced it with fresh oil.

Longoria, a crew leader, said he left the job because supervisors showed no respect for workers and required employees to keep their mouths closed about what was going on at the Plainview plant.

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