Federal health officials say the Georgia peanut plant at the center of the salmonella outbreak knowingly shipped tainted products.
Previously, the Food and Drug Administration had said Peanut Corp. of America retested products after getting an initial positive result for salmonella. The agency said the company shipped the goods after follow-up tests came back negative.
But Friday, the FDA said the company sent out peanut butter, chopped peanuts and peanut meal that had tested positive even before it got back any negative findings.
Peanut Corp. denies any wrongdoing. The government has opened a criminal investigation.
Salmonella had been found previously at least 12 times in products made at the plant, but production lines were never cleaned up after internal tests indicated contamination, a government report said. The tainted products initially tested positive, but were retested until they came up negative. It was previously believed they were only shipped out after those last results.
Peanut Corp. of America's plant in Blakely, Ga., had 10 separate problem areas, Food and Drug Administration inspectors said in a report posted on the Internet.
The company's actions "can only be described as reprehensible and criminal," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who oversees FDA funding. "This behavior represents the worst of our current food safety regulatory system."