Date: Sept.-Nov. 2012
Why it’s important: The Sunland peanut butter recall wasn’t’ the biggest food recall ever – it wasn’t even the biggest peanut butter recall. But the Sunland incident, which finally wrapped up in November 2012, marked the first time the Food and Drug Administration used its new authority to shut down a facility in the name of public safety.
It started back in September, when the FDA issued a limited recall of Trader Joe’s Valencia salted peanut butter. The batch had been linked to a growing outbreak of salmonella in several US states.
Over the next few months, the outbreak spread, and the recall expanded to over 200 peanut and nut-based products manufactured in the Sunland nut processing facility in Portales, N.M. After an investigation revealed multiple safety concerns, the FDA shut down the plant.
The reason it could do so? The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in January 2010. The law beefed up federal food safety regulations, requiring food handlers and distributors to register with the FDA and keep detailed safety records. It also gave the agency the ability to suspend registrations and shut down a facility without going to court. It exercised that power for the first time nearly two years later.