Nearly a million jars of peanut butter to be dumped in landfill
US firm refuses requests to donate $2.6m worth of product to food banks
Nearly a million jars of peanut butter - worth $2.6 million (€1.9 million) - are to be dumped at a New Mexico landfill to speed up the sale of a bankrupt peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a salmonella outbreak in 2012.
The retailer Costco refused to take shipment of the peanut butter and declined requests to let it be donated to food banks or repackaged or sold to brokers who provide food to institutions like prisons.
Court filings indicate the product, made by Sunland, which filed for bankruptcy last year, was made with $2.8 million worth of Valencia peanuts owned by Costco and had been sitting in a warehouse since Sunland shut down.
After extensive testing, Costco agreed to a court order authorising a bankruptcy trustee to sell it the peanut butter. But after getting eight loads, Costco rejected it as “not merchantable” because of leaky peanut oil.
The trustee, Clarke Coll, said “all parties agreed there’s nothing wrong with the peanut butter from a health and safety issue,” but court records show that on a March 19th conference call Costco said “it would not agree to any disposition ... other than destruction.”
So instead of selling or donating the peanut butter, with a value estimated at $2.6 million, the estate is paying about $60,000 to transport 950,000 jars - or about 25 tons - to the Curry County landfill in Clovis, where public works director Clint Bunch says it “will go in with our regular waste and covered with dirt”.
The last of 58 truckloads was expected today, he said.
Sunland made peanut butter under a number of different labels for retailers like Costco, Kroger and Trader Joe’s, along with products under its own name. But the plant was shut down in September 2012 after its products were linked to 41 salmonella cases in 20 states.
It later reopened for about five months, but shut down last October after the company’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.
Sunland processed Valencia peanuts, a sweet variety of peanut that is unique to the region and preferred for natural butters because it is flavorful without additives.
Sonya Warwick, spokeswoman for New Mexico’s largest food bank, declined to comment directly on the situation, but she noted that rescued food accounted for 74 per cent of what Roadrunner Food Bank distributed across New Mexico last year.
“Our fleet picks up rescued food from hundreds of locations weekly and brings it back to the food bank,” she said. “Before distributing it, volunteers help label, sort or repack it for distribution to partner agencies across the state.
“Access to rescued food allows us to provide a more well-rounded and balanced meal to New Mexicans experiencing hunger.”