Feds Shut Down Peanut Butter Factory after Salmonella Recalls

November 29, 2012

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has suspended production at Sunland, Inc. after several batches of the manufacturer's peanut butter were linked to a widespread salmonella outbreak leading to a nationwide recall of Sunland nut products. According to a news report in the Christian Science Monitor, this is the first time FDA officials have used the authority granted them by the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010. Two years ago, President Obama signed a bill into law giving the federal agency the power to shut down food producers over public health issues.

Sunland Inc. is a large manufacturer of nut products including peanut butter and nut spreads that are sold in grocery stores nationwide. A total of 240 Sunland products have been recalled so far. Products manufactured at the New Mexico facility have been linked to a salmonella outbreak that sickened 41 people in 20 states. FDA officials say they also took into consideration Sunland's history of violations before making the decision to shut them down.

Company Knew about Contamination

In September, the FDA issued a recall of certain brands of Trader Joe's peanut butter. But that recall has expanded considerably since, to include many other popular brands. The FDA, during its investigation, found salmonella in 11 batches of product over a span of three years. FDA officials say Sunland distributed its products in spite of knowing that they were contaminated. The suspension will be effective until the company requests an informal hearing from the FDA and takes corrective measures to make the facilities safer. The FDA will reinstate the company's registration only when a determination is made that the safety procedures have been implemented.

A Case of Blatant Negligence?

If it is true that Sunland distributed the nut products despite the knowledge that they were contaminated, there is no question that the company should be held accountable for making so many people ill. Salmonella infections can be extremely serious. Those who become ill suffer severe symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. Salmonella infections can also lead to long-term health problems.

Holding Negligent Food Producers Liable

Food producers are responsible for ensuring that their products are clean and safe for consumers. A negligent food producer can be held financially responsible for injuries and damages sustained by victims. Victims who are affected by food poisoning can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, treatment, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. An experienced personal injury attorney in California who has successfully handled food poisoning cases will be able to better advise victims and their families regarding their legal rights and options.