For the Department of Justice, it’s not enough that the country’s largest organic peanut butter plant, the one linked to this fall’s salmonella outbreak, has been temporarily shuttered. Now the DOJ wants to put the heavy smackdown on Sunland in New Mexico by seeking a permanent injunction to keep it from doing anything until the Food and Drug Administration gives its operations the all clear.
The DOJ filed a request yesterday in Federal court in Albuquerque seeking to prohibit Sunland from receiving, processing, manufacturing or selling any nut products until the FDA says it’s okay, reports MSNBC.com.
Sunland had planned to reopen some of its operations after its voluntarily recall of hundreds of products and the closing of its processing and peanut butter plants this fall, but now it seems federal prosecutors aren’t quite ready for that.
So far it had just been the FDA poking around at Sunland in September, which found the presence of salmonella bacteria at 28 sites in the plant as well as contaminated samples of various nut butters. In addition that contamination, inspectors discovered improper handling of products, dirty equipment and trailers of peanutes left uncovered outside the facility. There also weren’t enough hand-washing sinks, leading to dirty hands getting all up in ready-to-package peanuts.
This all started when Trader Joe’s issued a recall of one brand of peanut butter and soon spread to 17 others. The FDA revoked Sunland’s registration to operate because of various repeated safety violations, but the company seemed optimistic that it’d be able to reopen the peanut processing plant to work on millions of pounds of nuts it had piled up in barns.
The Centers for Disease Control said 42 people were sickened by the Trader Joe’s Valencia peanut butter from the Sunland plant.