A New Mexico peanut plant tied to a food poisoning outbreak that sickened dozens sent potentially tainted lots out the door even after its internal testing found at least nine different types of salmonella in peanut and almond butters, Food and Drug Administration officials said.
Two of the 11 lots included the outbreak strain of the bacteria. The pathogens were also found throughout the peanut plant operated by Sunland Inc. in Portales, N.M., where FDA inspectors found salmonella in 28 environmental samples between mid-September and mid-October.
The month-long FDA inspection of the Sunland plant found dirty equipment and slipshod food safety and cleaning practices that may have raised the risk of serious illness -- including food poisoning and life-threatening allergic reactions.
Specifically, the company failed to clean production and packaging equipment between runs of nuts such as peanuts, which contain allergens. The 11-page report documents employees improperly handled equipment, containers and utensils, failed to wash their hands, and had bare-handed contact with ready-to-package peanuts.
They also noted that the company left trailers full of raw, in-shell peanuts uncovered outdoors, where they were exposed to the elements, including rain and animals. Salmonella infections tied to recalled Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter made with Sea Salt sickened 41 people in 20 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ten people were hospitalized; there were no deaths. But at least 240 products have been recalled in the outbreak that started with the Trader Joe's products, with some dating back to 2010.
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