By: Russell Maas | Published: October 8th, 2012
An investigation by health officials has identified problems at the New Mexico plant that made peanut butter products linked to a recent multi-state outbreak of salmonella poisoning, which has reportedly caused at least 35 illnesses in 19 states, mostly involving children under the age of 10.
In recent weeks, multiple recalls have been issued for different nut butters and spreads manufactured by Sunland, Inc. at their manufacturing plant in Portales, New Mexico.
Other food manufacturers have also been forced to issue recalls for products that included peanut butter or other components received from the plant, which could be tainted with salmonella Bredeney.
On October 5, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided updated information about this multi-state outbreak, indicating that salmonella has been found at the manufacturing facility and environmental samples taken from various surfaces would likely harbor bacteria.
The first recalls stemming from this plant were issued late last month, after cases of salmonella Bredeney food poisoning were linked to Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter.
Although this is the only product that has been linked to reported illnesses, the New Mexico plant where the peanut butter was made has recalled everything manufactured and distributed between March 1, 2010 to September 24, 2012, accounting for a total of at least 240 different peanut products. This includes products containing peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, Tahini, roasted blanched peanuts, Thai ginger butter, chocolate butter and banana butter.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture examined a strain of the salmonella Bredeney found in a Trader Joe’s peanut butter spread and was able to identify and link the origin of the virus to Sunland Inc.’s New Mexico plant.
Manufacturing Problems Noted at Nut Butter Production Plant
Over the last few years, two health inspectors at Sunland’s facility have noted “objectionable conditions,” but they were not serious enough to sanction to plant.
The FDA’s investigation conducted last month has not released any further information regarding details of the condition of the plant or what the objectionable conditions were. An FDA spokesman said that they are preparing a statement to address the public why the plant was visited multiple times over the last few years and about the current salmonella outbreak.
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that attacks the gastrointestinal tract, causing mild to severe food poisoning. While most healthy adults typically recover from salmonella food poisoning after a few days or weeks, the infection may pose a particularly high risk for young children, the elderly, and individuals with compromised immune systems. In severe cases, salmonella Bredeney food poisoning may lead to hospitalization, dehydration or death.
Sunland already faces at least one food poisoning lawsuit linked to the peanut butter recall, which was filed by the parents of an eight-year old boy who got sick on August 25, after eating Trader Joe’s peanut butter purchased at a Raleigh, North Carolina store.
An updated list of all recalled products by Sunland Inc. can be found in the company’s recall announcement online at http://www.sunlandinc.com/788/html/pdfs/SunlandRecall.pdf