Seems the FDA’s shuttering of a peanut butter factory tied to salmonella outbreak that sickened 41 people in twenty states has turned a bumper crop of goobers into a bumper bummer for the small town of Portales, New Mexico. And the citizens there are mad as hell about it. The AP reports that the peanut-rich region was banking on a particularly bounteous harvest this year, but with Sunland Inc., the only production facility around, and the town’s largest employer, out of commission, those hopes of fortune have turned to worries about the local economy.
The shutdown has put more than a third of the peanut butter plant’s workers on the unemployment line. Much worse, farmers fear for the worst as millions of pounds of their prized peanuts are stuck in limbo until the FDA gives Sunland the go-ahead to resume operations. Locals in the thoroughly Republican region accuse the FDA of abusing its power, and the federal government for granting it that authority with last year’s food safety law.
There’s no doubt that the whole situation is troubling, but perhaps all that anger should be refocused on Sunland. Prior to this salmonella outbreak the factory has been cited for multiple violations ranging from improper handling of nuts and dirty equipment to the lack of hand-washing sinks, and employees with dirty hands in direct contact with ready-to-package products.