What is in this article?:
- Millions in peanut butter dumped in New Mexico
- Confusion reigns
Closed peanut plant instructed to dump nearly 25 tons of bottled peanut butter in a landfill in southeastern New Mexico.
As eastern New Mexico and Texas Panhandle peanut growers prepare their fields for another crop year of sweet Valencia peanuts, confusion, frustration and growing concerns are hanging over what will become of the Portales, New Mexico, plant that is currently under the control of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The peanut processing plant, operated for years by Sunland, Inc., was once the main buyer of Valencia peanuts grown across the region. But for the second straight year growers must start the new season not knowing whether the peanut plant will be revived under new ownership, remained shuttered for an extended period of time or if the plant will be disassembled and all equipment and peanut operations moved to another state, another town or completely out of the country.
The plant was shuttered in 2012 after a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened 41 people in 20 states was traced back to the plant. FDA inspectors cited the company after a month-long investigation, saying salmonella had been discovered in 28 locations and in several peanut butter samples.
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Sunland was the nation's largest producer of organic peanut butter at the time. They produced organic peanut butter under different labels for a number of retailers nationwide.
Shortly after the court-ordered closing, company officials announced they were working to remedy problems discovered by FDA inspectors with plans of re-opening as soon as a re-inspection by a third party could determine that federal violations had been addressed.
The swift action by FDA was criticized by some at the time, especially growers who supplied peanuts to the plant, many of whom said they believed the federal agency was looking for a way to demonstrate new federal powers granted as a result of the then-new Food Safety Modernization Act.