Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the firm at the centre of US peanut butter scandal, found salmonella contamination at its Georgia plant on 12 occasions – but had the products retested and shipped out to market, according to a federal report.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday (28 January) issued a six-page report on the findings from its investigation into safety standards at the PCA plant in Blakely, Georgia.

The FDA inspected the plant, which has been identified as the sole source of an outbreak that has sickened over 500 people, between 9 January and 27 January.

The report stated ten “observations” of instances when PCA failed to keep equipment clean, store food correctly and maintain the plant.

For its part, PCA said yesterday that it did “not agree with all the observations noted, and there are some inaccuracies”.

PCA also “categorically” denied a claim that it sought favourable results from any lab in a bid to get clearance to ship its products.

“PCA uses only two highly reputable labs for product testing and they are widely used by the industry and employ good laboratory practices,” the company said.

PCA said it understands the “seriousness” of the situation and said it “deeply regrets” the “distress” caused by the outbreak.

“To any consumers affected by these issues, to the food industry and to peanut consumers everywhere, we are sorry our process fell short of not only our goals, but more importantly, your expectations,” the company added.

To date, the outbreak has sickened 501 people in 43 US states, plus one person in Canada. Eight deaths have also been linked to the outbreak.

Over 125 products have been recalled, with goods ranging from crackers to ice cream.

PCA has supplied over 70 companies and the likes of food manufacturers General Mills and Ralcorp Holdings and retailers Kroger and Safeway have also recalled products made with ingredients from the firm.