June 19, 2018

Federal Judge Signs Consent Decree Against Sunland Inc.

U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson of the District of New Mexico has signed a consent decree placing requirements on Sunland Inc., the manufacturer of peanut products linked to a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney. The decree is intended to keep potentially harmful products from entering commerce. Epidemiological evidence that linked Sunland to the nationwide outbreak, as well as a history of violations led to the consent decree.

The FDA suspended Sunland’s registration on November 26, 2012. This was the first time the agency’s authority to prohibit a food facility from introducing product into the marketplace was used. That power was granted under the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor said, “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.”

The requirements of the consent decree stipulate that the company cannot process or distribute food from its peanut butter plant or peanut mill plant in Portales, New Mexico until it has complied with the document’s requirements to the FDA’s satisfaction. The company must conduct environmental monitoring and testing to make sure no disease-causing organisms are present in the facility or its finished foods. The company must have comprehensive inspections conducted by an independent sanitation expert.

Sunland can receive, hold, and distribute raw, unshelled peanuts from storage facilities because that food will be sold to processing facilities that include a “kill step” to destroy pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella and Listeria. But it cannot sell any processed peanut products until the FDA agrees they are safe.

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