Peanut butter spread on a piece of bread (Photo by Lars Howell/Aurora/Getty Imags)
The order came after the Texas Department of State Health Services found dead rodents, rodent excrement and bird feathers in a crawl space above a production area on Wednesday. The state inspection also found that the unit's air handling system was pulling debris from the infested crawl space into production areas.
The health department Thursday ordered the plant -- which processes peanut meal, granulated peanuts and roasted peanuts -- to stop producing and distributing food products. Officials at the plant, which opened in March 2005, voluntarily stopped operating Monday after initial lab tests showed likely salmonella contamination.
Further testing was needed to confirm the results, but the health department said Thursday that their orders are not contingent on finding salmonella.
The health department said that lab tests are being done on food and environmental samples as well.
Federal investigators last month identified a Georgia peanut processing plant operated by Peanut Corp. of America as the source of the salmonella outbreak that has sickened some 600 people and may have contributed to nine deaths. More than 2,000 products linked to that plant have been recalled.
Concerns were heightened after initial lab tests on peanut meal, granulated peanuts and roasted peanuts from the company's plant in Plainview also showed likely salmonella contamination.
The plant in Plainview, located in the Texas Panhandle, was run by a Peanut Corp. subsidiary, Plainview Peanut Co. It was not inspected by state health officials until after problems arose at the company's Georgia plant.
The federal government has opened a criminal investigation into the company, and its president, Stewart Parnell, repeatedly refused to answer questions Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce investigations subcommittee, which is seeking ways to prevent another outbreak.
Calls to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration were not immediately returned Thursday.
State law allows the Department of State Health Services to issue such recall orders when it finds conditions that it says pose "an immediate and serious threat to human life or health."