US food safety authorities have served a warrant at Westco Fruit and Nuts, a company accused of failing to comply with Food and Drug Administration orders over a recall of salmonella-contaminated peanuts.

According to the FDA, New Jersey-based Westco has refused to recall peanut products made with nuts supplied by the Peanut Corporation of America, the food maker at the centre of a nationwide salmonella outbreak.

The company has also declined to allow the FDA access to distribution records showing where potentially contaminated products were sold.

US food companies are compelled by law to grant the FDA entry for inspection purposes and provide access to distribution records. However, the agency does not have the authority to compel companies to recall food products.

The FDA first approached the company at the end of March, requesting that Westco implement a voluntary recall and allow the agency access to distribution records.

After the company refused to cooperate, New Jersey officials executed an embargo action at Westco’s distribution facility to prevent the company from further distributing potentially contaminated products in its inventory.

The FDA then served a search warrant seeking access to Westco’s records, which was executed by US Marshals yesterday (8 April).

“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.”

The salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated nuts supplied by PCA has been blamed for nine deaths and over 700 illnesses across 46 states. More than 3,200 products were recalled.

The FDA said that it has received no reports of illness or death at this time associated with consumption of Westco products.