An additional layer of controversy hangs over a federal bankruptcy case in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the fate of Sunland Incorporated's shuttered peanut plant in Portales.

North Carolina's Hampton Farms made the highest bid at a Mar. 20 auction staged by the court only to be told minutes before approval of the sale the following day that a hearing had been called after a Canadian firm had placed a late-hour phone bid to the Bankruptcy Court's trustee in the case.

The troubled plant was closed after a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened 42 people was traced back to products made at the plant in 2012.

In spite of a $20 million product purchase by Costco, Sunland's prime customer, to bailout the company, Sunland officials announced they were filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings with the court.

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The trustee in the case, Clarke Coll, had earlier recommended the court award the sale of the plant and assets to California-based Ready Roast for $18.5 million. But the court opted for a formal auction to be staged. At the close of that auction it was believed Hampton Farms' $20 million bid was the highest received.

But following the acceptance of the Hampton bid, the court was told that a last minute phone bid had been received by Canada's Golden Boys Food and that a hearing would be held to determine if a new auction should be ordered. That second auction was scheduled and during action on Friday, Golden Boys outbid a revised bid from Hampton Farms.

Lawyers for the North Carolina peanut producer agreed to remit that new bid under protest, but their $25.1 million secondary bid was eclipsed by Golden Boys $26 million cash offer.