January 16, 2018

Largest Multi-State Food Poisoning Outbreaks Of 2012: #6

A Salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter produced by Sunland Inc. of Portales, NM was the sixth largest largest multi-state food poisoning outbreak of 2012, based on the total number of people sickened. The outbreak sickened 42 people in 20 states and spawned more than 250 product recalls for potential contamination including Trader Joe’s, Newman’s Own, Earth Balance, Harry & David, Target’s Archer Farms and Safeway’s Open Nature. The potentially tainted peanut butter also made its way into the National School Lunch program via Smucker’s Uncrustables and bulk drums.

Sixty one percent of those sickened by the outbreak were children under 10. The median age was 7. The age range for all patients was less than one to 79 years old. Fifty-nine percent of patients were male. No deaths were reported.

All of the illnesses that were declared part of the outbreak took place on or before September 21, the date the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the outbreak. The first recalls were announced September 24. To view  the US Food and Drug Administration’s searchable list, click here.

In the weeks following the initial announcement, it became clear that this was not the first time Sunland had had food safety issues. FDA documents from inspections in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012 all cite the same problems: the presence of Salmonella in the plant, pest problems, poor food safety practices by employees, poor maintenance of the building and equipment and improper storage of raw materials.  In the 2011 and 2012 reports, inspectors noted birds “too numerous to count” flying over, landing on and pooping on nuts stored outside that had yet to be processed.

On November 26, 2012, the FDA suspended Sunland’s food facility registration, meaning the company cannot produce food for sale until the agency determines that all of the food safety issues have been addressed.

By state the case count was as follows: Arizona (1), California (7), Connecticut (3), Illinois (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (1), Michigan (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (2), New Jersey (2), New Mexico (1), New York (2), Nevada (1), North Carolina (3), Pennsylvania (2), Rhode Island (1), Texas (5), Virginia (2), West Virginia (2). 

Check Food Poisoning Bulletin each day as we count down the largest multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks of 2012. Coming tomorrow:  #5.

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