Sunland shuttered: NM peanut butter plant involved in a nationwide salmonella outbreak last year closes its doors

In fall, 2012, 41 people in 20 states contracted Salmonella from natural and organic peanut butter, produced by Sunland Inc. of Portales, New Mexico, and primarily through purchases at Trader Joe’s.

By Nov. 2012, Sunland was eager to reopen, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had other ideas, and filed a permanent injunction against Sunland.

In May, 2013, Sunland announced it was back in production and company officials said their barf-inducing coveted natural and organic sunland_20120925084929_320_240-300x225butters could be back on store shelves within a month.

But now they’re bankrupt.

Food safety can do that to an operation.

Officials with Sunland Inc., the nation’s largest organic peanut butter processor, said “ongoing financial and liquidity challenges made it necessary for the company to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code.”

Chapter 7 means the company shuts down and liquidates its assets. According to the bankruptcy filing, Sunland has an estimated $10 million to $50 million in assets, $50 million to $100 million in liabilities and 1,000 to 5,000 creditors.

Sunland reopened last May, but reportedly took a big financial hit from the eight-month closure and lawsuits that followed the salmonella outbreak.

The company had about 100 employees, who were notified Wednesday that the plant was shut down.

Portales Mayor Sharon King lamented the closure, calling it a “very sad day for our community” and noting that Sunland had been in business for decades.

Jensen Farms files bankruptcy in wake of cantaloupe listeria deaths

Kids, kids, the rock melons are back in Brisbane.

I bought three small and juicy cantaloupes Friday for $2, or $0.68 each at the fruit and veg shop. An older woman was stocking up, and said to me, “$0.68, how can you go wrong?”

I didn’t want to spoil her appetite and get into the whole-listeria-or-salmonella in cantaloupe thing. But things can go wrong.

The Denver Post reports that Jensen Farms, the southeastern Colorado cantaloupe growers who were the source of a deadly listeria outbreak last year, filed for bankruptcy Friday.

Lawsuits from the outbreak, which caused at least 32 deaths, dozens of hospitalizations and 146 illnesses, are prominent in the filings.

Jensen’s bankruptcy attorney, Jim Markus, said the filing should free up millions of dollars in insurance and other funds.

"We’re hopeful the bankruptcy process is a mechanism to help get them paid, as quickly as we can distribute it to victims," Markus said.