FDA Puts Safety Law into Practice by Shutting Down Peanut Butter Plant

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first used its authority granted by The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) when it suspended the food facility registration of Sunland, Inc.’s New Mexico peanut butter processing plant on Monday.

According to the FDA web site, the action prevents the country’s largest producer of nuts, and nut and seed spreads from distributing food. Registration with the FDA is required for any facility that manufactures, processes, packs, or holds food for consumption in the United States. If a facility’s registration is suspended, that facility is prohibited from introducing food into interstate or intrastate commerce.

The suspension order said the decision to halt operations at Sunland Inc. was made “in the interest of protecting public health.”

“The fact that peanut butter made by the company has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney that has sickened 41 people in 20 states, coupled with Sunland’s history of violations led FDA to make the decision to suspend the company’s registration,” the order said.

This was FDA’s first use of its registration suspension authority under sec. 102 of FSMA. The law, which the FDA calls “the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years,” was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011. Its goal “aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.”

The law enables the FDA to act “when food manufactured, processed, packed, received, or held by a facility has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals, and other conditions are met.”

The suspension order offers Sunland, Inc. the opportunity to request an informal hearing on certain issues related to the order. If, after providing this opportunity, the FDA determines that the suspension remains necessary, the FDA will require Sunland, Inc. to submit a corrective action plan to address the immediate problems and to implement a sustainable solution to those problems in a sound scientific manner. The FDA will reinstate Sunland, Inc.’s registration only when FDA determines that the company has implemented procedures to produce safe products.

For more details on this action, including valuable information for consumers on the recall of Sunland products, visit www.fda.gov.

If you have any additional questions regarding food safety, one of our knowledgeable attorneys at Powell Law will be happy to help you.

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