The Food and Drug Administration exercised its right to suspend a company’s registration for the first time last Monday, when it shut down the New Mexico based Sunland Peanut Butter Plant, after months of contaminated product recalls and a month-long sight investigation. This action was possible because of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which was signed into law last year. According to the FDA, the act constitutes the most significant reform to food safety law in nearly a century. This act enables the FDA to become more proactive, as opposed to reactive, to threats to our food supply chain.
Sunland, Inc. processes, manufactures and distributes multiple nut and seed products, including nut spreads. Peanut butter manufactured and distributed by the company has been linked to Salmonella Bredeney contamination, which has sickened 41 individuals in 20 states. Sixty-three percent of those affected by this foodborne illness have been children.
In addition to the recent peanut butter recalls, it has become clear that Sunland has had a history of food safety issues, no doubt contributing to the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to halt business production and distribution by suspending its registration.
Consumers may view FDA food and drug recall information at http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls/default.htm.
According to the FDA, each year 48 million people within our country suffer from a foodborne illness. Over 100,000 are hospitalized, and thousands of people die because of these illnesses.
Through the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA has the “ability to hold food companies accountable for preventing contamination. [This marks] a significant milestone in the efforts to modernize the food safety system.” This legislation provides a necessary vehicle to protect consumer safety, by allowing the administration to halt business commerce.
Consumers have the right to expect that the products they purchase are safe when used as intended and are free from defect. Therefore, designers, manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, and retailers have a duty of care to provide safe products to the consumer. Because manufacturers are in the best position to detect potential defects and warn consumers of danger, they are “strictly liable” for any harm they cause. This means consumers do not have to prove negligence, only that there was a defect and that the use of the defective or unsafe product caused injury or illness. Individuals injured by defective products are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
If you have become the victim of a defective or dangerous product, know that you are entitled to consumer protection. As product liability attorneys, Briggs and Wholey offer the experience and expertise necessary to fight big business interests when the products they provide harm consumers.
Photo Credit: sideshowmom, Morguefile