PORTALES, N.M. (KRQE) - The Food and Drug Administration has now officially shut down the New Mexico peanut plant linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak. This news comes as Sunland hoped to be back in business with their processing plant Tuesday.
It's been two months since Sunland Peanut Company pulled products from shelves. It's a business normally bustling this time of year.
Its Vice President, Katalin Coburn, told KRQE News 13 Monday, she hopes that will change. Coburn said all systems are a go to re-open their peanut processing plant in Portales by Tuesday.
"We have taken all of the proposed necessary recommended steps to make certain that we are in complete control of our environment, and anything that's coming in and out of the plant," explained Coburn.
The company voluntarily pulled popular peanut butter products from store shelves across the country. Peanut butter made there for Trader Joe's was linked to 41 people getting sick around the country, including a young girl from Roosevelt County .
Since operations shut down, it's left farmers in business with Sunland anxious.
"Everybody has been so concerned, and hoping you know we can get the problem solved and get back going," explained Wayne Baker, chairman of the New Mexico Peanut Growers Association. "It's so important to the area, it's a major industry for eastern New Mexico."
The FDA investigated, and found bacterial contamination at the plant , and suspended Sunland's license Monday. It's the first time the FDA has used a new power it gained from a food safety law enacted last year.
Workers at Sunland have torn apart and rebuilt all the equipment. Now, they're in a waiting game with the FDA.
The peanut butter plant will remain closed for now. Coburn said they're still waiting on a response from the FDA that will address all of the proposed changes regarding the plant.
Since closing, Coburn said there have been some temporary layoffs for plant workers, but that many there are seasonal employees.
When asked what Sunland will do to avoid the bacteria in the future, Coburn said, "that's something that will be part of our news release once we've received the complete response back from the FDA."
For now, Coburn said operational changes have already been implemented. When the processing plant does reopen, the Vice President said they'll only be working with raw peanuts for now.
Coburn said they are still hoping to reopen their peanut butter plant by the end of the year. The FDA has not said when it will let the plant reopen.
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