FDA: Several violations uncovered at Sunland's peanut plant
November 16th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

FDA: Several violations uncovered at Sunland's peanut plant

Health officials have found more clues about the nut product contamination that lead to at least 41 people getting sick this summer.

Conditions at the Sunland, Inc. facility in Portales, New Mexico, may have contributed to the contamination of peanut butter and almond butter products with salmonella bredeney, according to new observations posted on the Food and Drug Administration website Thursday. These conditions were observed during inspections of the facility that took place between September 17 and October 16.

Federal investigators determined that between June 2009 and August 2012, Sunland cleared - and in some cases distributed - peanut or almond butter products from 11 different lots, even though internal testing showed the presence of the salmonella bacteria.

Samples analyzed by the FDA also found salmonella that did not show up in Sunland's internal testing. FDA inspectors found the bacteria in nearly 30 environmental samples.

Investigators determined Sunland employees did not properly handle equipment, utensils and containers used to hold and store food. They say there were no sinks to wash hands in the production or packaging area. They also noted that employees handled ready-to-package peanuts with their bare hands.

According to the FDA, there were no records providing proof that production equipment was cleaned, and the same bags were used to store both raw and roasted peanuts. Raw peanuts were also found outside the facility in open trailers exposed to birds and rain.

"FDA has inspected the Sunland facility multiple times over the past several years, to help ensure compliance with food safety guidelines," said Pat El-Hinnawy, a spokeswoman for the organization. "These inspections have not only uncovered several violations of FDA food safety requirements, they have also helped limit the impact of the company's contaminated product. In March 2012, FDA was proactive in issuing salmonella sampling guidance for industry, to help reduce the presence of this pathogen in the U.S. food supply. It is the responsibility of food producers and processors to put into practice the steps laid out in the guidance."

Sunland first voluntarily recalled their almond butter and peanut butter products on September 24, 2012. On October 4, they expanded the recall to include all products made in that plant after March 1, 2010. To date Sunland has recalled a total of 240 products. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 41 people have been infected in 20 states, most recently New York, North Carolina and Virginia.

On Thursday, the company's president and CEO Jimmie Shearer issued a statement on their website addressing the FDA's latest inspection report, saying in part:

"At no time in its twenty four year history has Sunland, Inc. released for distribution any products that it knew to be potentially contaminated with harmful microorganisms. The Company has followed internal testing protocols that it believed resulted in the isolation and destruction of any product that did not pass the test designed to detect the presence of any contaminants. In every instance where test results indicated the presence of a contaminant, the implicated product was destroyed and not released for distribution. The Company believed at all times that its response was sufficiently robust such that any product which might be contaminated was isolated and destroyed."

Shearer says they plan to continue cooperating with the FDA and have already submitted a response to the agency addressing each issue of concern.

While the number of new cases is declining, health officials still caution consumers to avoid eating any of these products, especially children under age 5, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Since these products have a long shelf life, they could still be in people's homes. A complete list of recalled products can be found at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Just Sayin'

    Mr. Peanut does not approve.

    November 16, 2012 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zlop

      Quit playing with your Peanuts !

      November 17, 2012 at 00:45 | Report abuse |
  2. TickTickTick

    Ya Know.............

    If you have that bad of a food born allergy, what the he11 are you doing eating pre-packaged foods to begin with?

    November 16, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portalesaño

      To ticktick: WHU?? What does having a peanut allergy have to do with salmonella bacteria? Your post makes absolutely NO sense!

      November 16, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
    • interestingly stupid

      Your statement makes just as much sense as saying a woman can shut down her body during rape. I mean obviously salmonella only comes from consumers who are allergic to peanuts. durrr....

      November 16, 2012 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
    • NODAT1

      think before you type

      November 16, 2012 at 20:48 | Report abuse |
  3. jaxgrim

    One of my sons came close to death during an outbreak in Peter Pan peanut butter a few years ago. It is scary stuff.

    November 16, 2012 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. GOPtard

    Let's get rid of all federal regulations and let companies regulate themselves!!!! GOPtard.

    November 16, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Rick DeBay

    And this is why the government should stop regulating industries! Cleaning up this mess will impact profits.

    November 16, 2012 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply

    See companies are more than capable of regulating their own industries, it is obvious that consumer health comes way before profit margins. Take that you socialists! Oh wait...hmmm...grrrr...never mind

    November 16, 2012 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. zlop

    Mandatory Salmonella Vaccinations next ?
    GMO antibiotic emitting peanuts to be developed, but not labeled ?

    November 17, 2012 at 03:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Fish

    I live within a stone's throw of the plant in question, they are currently requesting a break on the cost of dumping those tainted peanuts in the landfill. What a crock. Poor business practices combined with greed. Such is the end of the American empire!!!

    November 17, 2012 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jon

    Sunland plant is in Mexico, I'm not surprised. The FDA should arrest those dirty Mexicans
    And make them wash there hands, salmonella is very dangerous

    November 17, 2012 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hey

      it's in new mexico learn how to read einstein.

      November 18, 2012 at 05:36 | Report abuse |
    • Portalesaño

      Yo, Jon: Learn little geography and a little history, why not? NEW Mexico the 47th state inducted into the United States in 1912, just before Arizona. If you care to look at a map NEW Mexico fills up that large space between Texas and Arizona. We have two top secret UNITED STATES research facilities, Los Alamos National Labs (where the atomic bomb was invented), and Sandia National Labs. The Santa Fe Railroad was named for Santa Fe, NEW Mexico. We speak English. We use US dollars for money. You don't need a passport to come visit (but please don't, you are too dumb).

      November 23, 2012 at 09:55 | Report abuse |
  10. hey

    why the hell will the fda be in mexico anyway. DE DE DEE

    November 18, 2012 at 05:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. albert

    do schools teach geography anymore or only tattoos, texting and bolts in noses

    November 18, 2012 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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    November 26, 2012 at 00:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. larry5

    You can always trust food producers to never put anything in that product that's not good for you, right?

    December 3, 2012 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
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    December 21, 2012 at 05:25 | Report abuse | Reply
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