Sunland has been linked to a salmonella-tainted peanut butter scare

Sunland has been linked to a salmonella-tainted peanut butter scare

The US Food and Drug Administration has suspended the operations of Sunland, the New Mexico food producer linked to salmonella-tainted peanut butter.

In a statement, the FDA said it has suspended Sunland's food facility registration and prohibited it from distributing food "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," it said.

A recall was initiated by the company on 24 September and 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, which has since expanded.

The FDA said a review of Sunland's product testing records showed that 11 product lots of nut butter tested positive for salmonella between June 2009 and September 2012.

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.

Between March 2010 and September 2012, at least a portion of eight product lots of nut butter that Sunland's own testing programme identified as containing Salmonella was distributed by the company to consumers, it added. The FDA also found the presence of Salmonella in 28 environmental samples and in 13 nut butter product samples and one product sample of raw peanuts during an inspection of the plant in September and October.

The suspension order offers Sunland the opportunity to request an informal hearing on certain issues related to the order. The FDA said it will reinstate the company's registration "only when FDA determines that the company has implemented procedures to produce safe products".