Peanut Butter Plant Shuts Down After Mass Recalls & Shows Organic Doesn't Mean Safe


Peanut ButterWhen I buy organic food, I assume I'm getting something that's safer and healthier than the conventionally-processed alternative. But it turns out that's not always the case. On Monday the Food and Drug Administration pulled the plug at the country's largest organic peanut butter manufacturer because it was crawling with salmonella.

The Sunland Inc. plant, which produces peanut butter and other nut butters for Trader Joe's, has been plagued with health problems this year and had been shut down, voluntarily, since September after several product recalls because of salmonella contamination. By the beginning of October, 101 products had been recalled.

The tainted products sickened 41 people in 20 states -- most of them children -- and the FDA took the bold move of revoking the company's registration this week so that they could no longer make or distribute any food. The agency found salmonella in 28 locations in the plant and in 13 samples of nut butters it tested. It was also found in a sample of raw peanuts.

What the heck is going on over there? What kinds of food safety procedures does that plant have in place if it's basically a salmonella farm? "The agency also found improper handling of the products, unclean equipment and uncovered trailers of peanuts outside the facility that were exposed to rain and birds," The Huffington Post reported. And we all know "exposed to birds" really means "full of bird poop." I kind of want to throw up.

Because when you shop at places like Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, another chain that sold products from Sunland, you think you're doing something good for your kids. You're buying healthier foods, organic and safe. But this shows us that organic food is just as vulnerable to contamination if it's being processed by irresponsible parties.

Thankfully, the FDA has stepped in and the contaminated food won't be making its way to store shelves anymore. But how vulnerable we are to the safety practices of those who make our food is eye-opening and a little scary.

Do you usually assume organic food is safer than the alternatives?


Image via HeatherHeatherHeather/Flickr

food, food safety, recall


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butte... butterflyfreak

I don't assume any food is "entirely safe" unless it was cleaned and prepared in my own kitchen. That being said, I'm glad to see that the FDA did its job here and shut down a plant with unsafe food handling practices. Sad to say but organic DOES actually increase your chances of food poisoning like salmonella, if not properly handled because, HELLO, organic means they actually use manure for their fertilizer (among other things) and everyone (should) know that salmonella and e.coli (as well, I'm sure a vast array of petri dish specimen) thrive in fecal matter.

Tracys2 Tracys2

Um, no. Organic stuff may have a lot fewer pesticides, but safer in terms of this sort of thing? No.

My husband grew up on a farm and won't eat organic if he can avoid it, because he thinks it's LESS safe and more likely to have pests, etc. He thinks it's icky.

Wendy Hanson

I think most people who believe that organic food is "safer" have never been near a farm.

Catriona Macmillan

Organic Farming & Manufacture is on the whole far safer; there is an additional 3rd party inspection process by the organic certifier. I am disappointed that New Mexico Department Of Agriculture (NMDA) who certified the manufacturer as organic missed the bad food handling practices, maybe they inspected the factory before it was dealing with the pressures of an unexpected bumper crop. This is obviously a shoddy food manufacturer.   "Shows Organic Doesn't Mean Safe"  & comments re rational of raw manure & general conditions on organic farms-extreme. NB Nothing in the article suggests the contamination came from organic peanut farms.  Under organic certification a farm is prohibited to use artificial fungicides, pesticides & herbicides, & have ongoing management plans in place, these are not a farms, abandoned, left to grow wild neglected & organic by default. Peanuts from Nebraska a few years ago affected over 400 people with Salmonella Poisoning, chemically sprayed peanuts, with artificial fertilizers etc. So the Logic of Organic being more dangerous dumbfounds me.. I trust Certified Organic, Bad food safety compliance should be jumped on. People can die.. NB long-term use of artificial gunk can disguise bad manufacturing  & Artificial flavours can disguise bad tasting nuts. A badly run business, organic or not, ignored food handling safety standards that all food manufacturers need to comply. 


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