Federal authorities have shut down a New Mexico processing plant that manufactured ingredients contained in many recently recalled peanut butter products. An inspection has revealed multiple strains of salmonella at the plant and the agency has indicated that the plant owner knowingly distributed contaminated food to consumers.
The FDA announced on Monday that it has suspended Sunland Inc.’s food facility registration, making the company unable to distribute food products.
The move was conducted “in the interest of protecting public health,” according to the food regulatory agency, after an inspection discovered salmonella in 28 different samples. The action is the first use of the FDA’s new powers granted by the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Sunland Inc. peanut butter was linked to a salmonella food poisoning outbreak that surfaced over the summer, sickening at least 41 people in 20 states earlier this year. It resulted in a the recall of about 200 different peanut butter products distributed nationwide.
“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,” according to the FDA announcement. “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 FDA’s own testing found salmonella in 28 environmental samples from surfaces throughout the facility, including production and manufacturing areas. Salmonella was also found in 13 nut butter products and in the company’s raw peanut supply. The strain linked to the outbreak, Salmonella Bredeney, was found in four product samples.
The move by the FDA effectively puts the company out of business until it can prove that it has put a plan and procedures in place that will satisfy the FDA and keep its products contamination free.
Officials relate new cases of Salmonella to the possibility that many consumers may still have contaminated products in their homes, given the long shelf life of the peanut butter.