FDA shuts down operations at organic peanut butter factory linked to salmonella outbreak

Outbreak sickened people in 20 states

TAMPA, Fla. - The nation's largest organic peanut butter maker is shut down tonight thanks to the federal government's new power to step in.

The company, Sunland Inc., is the same one linked to the salmonella outbreak earlier this year. The plant in New Mexico was shutdown due to that outbreak, but had planned to re-open on Monday.

That is, until the FDA stepped in.

The FDA discovered a litany of problems at the plant and filed a federal order to suspend operations until conditions improve.

"I'm glad they are protecting us, I am. I think the tighter restrictions are definitely necessary," said Jenn Kirkpatrick, and organic foods shopper in Tampa.

The original salmonella outbreak linked to Sundland's organic peanut butter sickened people in 20 states.

This is the first time the federal agency has used its new power to suspend a plant from distributing foods until it "no longer has a reasonable probability of causing serious health consequences or death."

That means shoppers will not see Sunland's organic peanut butter back on the shelf any time soon.

"We have to have the freedom to make our corrections and move forward," said Harry Frisch, and organic foods advocate in Tampa.

Despite the public health concern, he disagrees with the government's order to step in, saying they deserve the chance to right their wrong.

"A company that is striving to create something that doesn't have pesticides in it, they're heroes to me. If they misstepped, ok, I understand," he said.

The FDA gained its new enforcement authority from the 2011 food safety law.

Sunland sold hundreds of peanut products to all the major grocery chains, including Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Target.

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