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School Lunch Programs Received Potentially Contaminated Peanut Products

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Schools in three states were sent potentially contaminated peanut products for a free lunch program in 2007, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday.

Peanut butter and roasted peanuts processed by the Peanut Corp. of America were sent to schools in California, Idaho and Minnesota, the Associated Press reported.

The company's plant in Blakely, Ga., has been linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 575 people and potentially caused eight deaths. Recalls have been issued for more than 1,300 foods that used ingredients from the plant, which hadn't undergone a U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection since 2001.

On Thursday, members of the Senate Agriculture Committee chastised FDA and Centers for Disease Control Prevention officials for their slow intervention in the salmonella outbreak and demanded they find ways to cooperate to ensure the safety of Americans' food, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"All of this happened because of a failure -- the failure of our government to prevent unsafe food from entering the food chain," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, (D-Minn.), told FDA and CDC officials who attended a committee hearing.

Steeper penalties than fines are needed to enforce food safety laws, said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the Times reported.

"I'd like to see some people go to jail," Leahy said. "You give them a fine, well, it's just the cost of doing business. But if somebody thinks they're going to go to jail ... that's an entirely different thing."

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