Blog: US Sunland peanut butter outbreak could hit UK shores

Michelle Russell | 23 November 2012

An ongoing salmonella outbreak linked to US manufacturer Sunland looks like it might have an impact on UK shores after the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) this week issued a warning.

The agency issued a warning not to eat certain peanut butter and peanut-based products which have been imported from the US as a result of the US outbreak.

The recall, by the US food firm, was first made in September, and just serves to emphasise how close the global food supply chain has become. 

The US recall included peanut butter and other nut butter products produced in a separate building from where raw and roasted peanuts are processed. The recall was the result of 29 people having reported Salmonella illnesses across 18 states.

The initial recall did not affect the UK as the products were not distributed to Europe. However, as the recall has since widened, US authorities have alerted the European Commission to possible distribution of affected products in a number of member states, including the UK.

In a statement yesterday (22 November), the FSA said it did not believe the products to be on sale in major supermarkets in the UK, but may have been bought on the internet or from specialist shops that import US food products.

The FSA said it has requested distribution information from the US authorities and has, in the meantime, asked local authorities to check businesses in their areas that may have imported or sold the affected products and to remove any remaining products from sale.

"Investigations are ongoing, but as we get more information from the US and local authorities in the UK we will be able to narrow down the list products to just those we know have been sold in the UK," said Liz McNulty, from the FSA's incidents team.

The Health Protection Agency said it is not aware of any cases of illness in the UK that may be associated with the outbreak.

In an update last week, the US Food and Drug Administration said it had found more clues about the nut product contamination and that conditions at the Sunland facility in New Mexico may have contributed to the contamination.

These conditions were observed during inspections of the facility that took place between 17 September and 16 October.

The FDA said it found that between June 2009 and August 2012, Sunland had distributed, or cleared for distribution, portions of 11 lots, or daily production runs, of peanut or almond butter after its own testing programme had identified the presence of "at least" one of nine different Salmonella types.

In a note issued on its website last week, in response to the FDA's findings, Sunland said has never released for distribution any products that it knew to be potentially contaminated with harmful microorganisms.

"Sunland continues to cooperate openly with FDA to address matters related to the recent recall of its products and the inspection of its manufacturing facilities," it said. "Sunland has submitted a comprehensive point by point response to the Form 483 observations issued at the close of the inspection."

The company said its response is currently under review by the agency.


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