The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has shuttered Sunland Inc.'s New Mexico plant after peanut butter made by the company was linked to an outbreak of Salmonella that sickened 41 people in 20 states.
The FDA suspended Sunland's food facility registration, prohibiting the company from distributing any products. This was the FDA's first use of its registration suspension authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was enacted in January of last year. Without the enforcement authority, the FDA would have had to take Sunland to court in order to halt production and distribution at the plant.
In addition, according to the FDA, Sunland also has a history of violations that contributed to the federal agency's decision to suspend the company's registration.
"This is good news for consumers. FDA was able to act effectively and promptly to deal with a situation of a hazard in the marketplace," says Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumer Reports. "This FDA action sends a powerful message to food processors that if you're producing in substandard conditions and putting out food that is hazardous to consumers, FDA will shut you down."
During plant inspections in September and October, the FDA found Salmonella in 28 samples from surfaces at the plant, in 13 product samples, and one sample of raw peanuts. Sunland's records showed that 11 product lots of nut butter showed the presence of Salmonella between June 2009 and September 2012. And between March 2010 and September 2012, at least a portion of eight product lots of nut butter that Sunland's testing program identified as containing Salmonella was distributed to consumers.
Last month, Sunland expanded a September recall of peanut products due to the Salmonella contamination.
The FDA will reinstate Sunland's registration when it determines that the company has implemented procedures to produce safe products.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weak immune systems. Healthy people infected with Salmonella can experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses.
If you want an alternative for your kids' lunches read Make healthy school lunches your kids will love. For information about how to get involved with food safety, check out our website NotInMyFood.org.
FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney Infections Linked to Peanut Butter made by Sunland Inc. [FDA]
The New FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) [FDA]
Consumers Union praises FDA shutdown of Sunland plant, presses for further implementation of federal food-safety rules [Consumers Union]