Thursday, November 29, 2012

Organic peanut butter company shut down by FDA

The Food and Drug Administration has halted operations of the country's largest organic peanut butter processor, cracking down on salmonella poisoning for the first time with the new enforcement authority the agency gained in a 2011 food safety law.

FDA officials found salmonella all over Sunland Inc.'s New Mexico processing plant after 41 people in 20 states, most of them children, were sickened by peanut butter manufactured at the Sunland plant and sold at the Trader Joe's grocery chain. The FDA suspended Sunland's registration Monday, preventing the company from producing or distributing food.

The food safety law gives the FDA authority to suspend a company's registration when food manufactured or held there has a "reasonable probability" of causing serious health problems or death. Before the food safety law was enacted early last year, the FDA would have had to go to court to suspend a company's registration.

Sunland had planned to reopen its peanut processing facility Tuesday. The company has the right to a hearing and must prove to the FDA that its facilities are clean enough to reopen.

Sunland sold hundreds of peanut products to many of the nation's large grocery chains other than Trader Joe's, including Whole Foods, Safeway, Target and others.

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