WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration found what it called “objectionable conditions” at a New Mexico peanut butter plant in 2010, two years before the current outbreak of salmonella poisoning linked to Trader Joe’s peanut butter produced there. The FDA said Friday that a recent inspection found salmonella in the plant which produced Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter and many other nut butters and nut products for several large national grocery chains. The Trader Joe’s peanut butter is now linked to 35 salmonella illnesses in 19 states — most of them in children under the age of 10. Though the illnesses have only been linked to the Trader Joe’s peanut butter, New Mexico-based Sunland Inc. has recalled everything made in the plant since March of 2010 — a total of 240 products. The company last month recalled 101 products that were manufactured in the plant this year. FDA has found problems at Sunland before. Agency records show two inspections at the plant in 2009 and 2010 found “objectionable conditions” but classified the findings as not meeting the agency’s threshold for action. According to the records, any corrective action on the part of the company was voluntary. The FDA has not released details on what the objectionable conditions were or why the agency visited the plant twice in two years. An FDA spokesman said the agency is preparing to release that information. Sunland did not respond to requests for comment. An FDA investigation conducted last month after the illnesses were linked to the plant found salmonella in environmental samples taken from various surfaces, officials said. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that officials now count 35 salmonella illnesses in 19 states across the country that can be traced to the Trader Joe’s peanut butter. The greatest numbers of illnesses were in California and Texas, which each reported five illnesses. Many of the brands included in the recall are labeled organic or “all natural,” and major peanut butter brands like Jif, Skippy and Peter Pan are not a part of it.The recall includes nut butters and nut products sold at Whole Foods Market, Target, Safeway, Costco, Fresh & Easy, Harry and David, Sprouts, Heinen’s, Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, Giant Food of Landover, Md., and several other stores since 2010. Full list of recalled items: www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/CORENetwork/ucm320413.htm
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