The company whose salmonella-tainted peanut products made 691 people sick and may have killed nine others has been fined $14.6 million.

The Texas Department of State Health Services yesterday fined Plainview Peanut Corp. — a plant owned by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the company at the center of the salmonella outbreak — for what the agency described as unsanitary conditions and contamination of its goods, as well as illnesses and operating for nearly four years without a food manufacturer’s license from the state. State health inspectors in February discovered dead rodents, waste and bird feathers in a crawl space above the plant's production area. PCA filed for bankruptcy a day after the stomach-turning findings were announced.  

Yesterday's fine is the biggest the agency has ever levied, state health department spokesperson Doug McBride told the Associated Press. "We felt the assessment of the administrative fines needed to be done regardless of financial situations," he told the AP. "If there is a violation, the penalties need to be assessed, period."

PCA attorney Andy Goldstein didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment today.

Federal health officials reported yesterday that the incidence of foodborne illnesses, including salmonella, has flattened since 2004. Check out our in-depth report on the salmonella outbreak to learn more. Or, for a lighter take, the satirical pub The Onion has been inspired by the outbreak, joking recently that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has been blasted for its allegedly lax regulation, has "approved" salmonella. "We've been waiting for the federal go-ahead to produce salmonella for decades now," a supposed condiments manufacturer "tells" the newspaper. "In fact, we have an entire line of lukewarm, sun-soaked, and partially turned mayonnaises that we just know Americans will love."

Image of peanuts/Benedikt.Seidl via Wikimedia Commons