FDA forces closure of Sunland Inc. after Salmonella outbreak, repeated violations

Salmonella Poisoning in Peanut Butter The Food and Drug Administration has shut the doors on a New Mexico purveyor of peanut butter products that were contaminated with Salmonella bacteria, leading to a nationwide outbreak of the illness.

The agency believes conditions inside Sunland Inc. were so bad it was impossible for the company could confidently produce food that wouldn’t present a public health threat. With that in mind combined with the illnesses already linked to the company, the FDA suspended Sunland’s Food Facility Registration this week, barring the company from distributing any food products.

This marks the first time since passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act that the FDA has used its new power to completely shut down a food processor that is in violation of numerous food safety laws and is currently responsible for an outbreak of food-borne illness. Sunland must now meet the FDA’s standards before the agency will lift the suspension on its Food Facility Registration.

More than 40 people in 20 states have developed Salmonella Bredeny poisoning after eating products that used peanut butter products from Sunland. The problems at Sunland first became public when national retailer Trader Joe’s issued a recall on two varieties of peanut butter it got from the New Mexico company. That recall sparked a rash of recalls from other companies which get their peanut butter or other products from Sunland.

According to a statement from the FDA announcing the closure of Sunland, the company will have to clear numerous violations that led to its closure this week, even after the agency said Sunland was cooperating with it in recalling its products that were linked to the Salmonella outbreak:

“A review of Sunland Inc.’s product testing records showed that 11 product lots of nut butter showed the presence of Salmonella between June 2009 and September 2012. Between March 2010 and September 2012, at least a portion of 8 product lots of nut butter that Sunland Inc.’s own testing program identified as containing Salmonella was distributed by the company to consumers,” the agency notes.

“Additionally, during its inspection of the plant in September and October 2012, the FDA found the presence of Salmonella in 28 environmental samples (from surfaces in production or manufacturing areas) and in 13 nut butter product samples and one product sample of raw peanuts. Four of the peanut butter product samples showed the presence of the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bredeney.”

More than 100 products that were processed at Sunland’s Peanut Butter processing facility have been recalled from the market. Some peanut butters were manufactured at Sunland and then sold directly to consumers under a certain store’s brand name, such as Albertson’s or Trader Joe’s. For other products included in the recall, they were shipped from Sunland and then included in another company’s food products.

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