September 27, 2023

After Salmonella Outbreak, Sunland is Sued by its Insurer

After a Salmonella outbreak was linked to the peanut butter it produces last year, Sunland Inc. of Portales, NM  is being sued by its insurance company, Great American Alliance Insurance Co. of  Cincinnati.  At issue is who is responsible for paying claims brought against Sunland by those who were sickened by the peanut butter. The suit, case number  1:13-cv-00677-MRB , was filed September 24  in the Southern District of Ohio Western Division.

GavelsThe outbreak, the sixth largest largest multi-state food poisoning outbreak of 2012, sickened 42 people in 20 states and launched more than 250 product recalls for potential contamination including brands of Trader Joe’s, Newman’s Own, Earth Balance, Harry & David, Target’s Archer Farms and Safeway’s Open Nature. The peanut butter also made its way into the National School Lunch program via Smucker’s Uncrustables and bulk drums.

Most of those sickened, 61 percent, were children under 10. The median age of case patients for the outbreak was 7. The overall age range was less than one to 79 years old.  Ten people were hospitalized. No deaths were reported in this outbreak.

All of the illnesses took place on or before September 21, the date the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the outbreak. The first recall was announced September 24, 2013.

Last year was not the first time Sunland had food safety issues. FDA documents from inspections in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012 all cited the same problems:  Salmonella found in the plant, pest problems, poor employee food safety practices, poor maintenance of the building and equipment, and improper storage of raw materials. Peanuts were stored outside where,  in 2011 and 2012, inspectors noted birds “too numerous to count” flying over, landing on and pooping on nuts that had yet to be processed.


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