Federal judge slaps restrictions on Sunland

12/26/2012 11:24:00 AM
Tom Karst

The New Mexico peanut butter manufacturer linked to a recent salmonella outbreak with victims in 20 states must comply with court-ordered restrictions before it can again sell food products, a U.S. District judge ruled in late December.

U.S. District Judge William Johnson of the District of New Mexico has signed a consent decree imposing requirements on Sunland Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of peanut products linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney, according to a news release from the Food and Drug Administration.

On Nov. 26, the FDA suspended Sunland’s registration because it did not provide enough assurance that existing food safety problems would be corrected, according to the release. The suspension of the facility’s registration was the first time the FDA used its authority to prohibit a food facility from introducing product into interstate or intrastate commerce, an authority the FDA was given by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011.

The consent decree mandates that Sunland employ an independent sanitation expert to develop a sanitation control program that the company must then implement. The plant must also conduct environmental monitoring and testing. In addition, the company must have comprehensive inspections conducted by an independent sanitation expert.

The consent decree does allow Sunland to market raw, unshelled peanuts from its storage buildings because the raw, unshelled peanuts are bound for processing facilities that include a “kill step” to eliminate salmonella and other pathogenic bacteria, according to the release.

Based on the requirements in the consent decree, signed Dec. 21, the FDA vacated the suspension order and reinstated Sunland’s food facility registration. The FDA said, however, the company cannot process or distribute food from its peanut butter plant or peanut mill plant in Portales, N.M., until it has complied with the consent decree’s requirements to the agency’s satisfaction. Sunland must receive written authorization from the FDA prior to resuming operations at both its peanut butter and peanut mill plant, according to the release.

“When the FDA suspends a facility’s registration, consumers can be assured that its products will stay off the market until the agency determines that they can be safely produced,” Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor said in the release.



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