Extreme Food Waste: Corporate Dispute Leads to Trashing of 950,000 Jars of Peanut Butter

25 tons of perfectly edible PB are sent to the dump, thanks to a spat between Costco and a processing plant.

It cost $60,000 to send 950,000 jars of peanut butter to a landfill because of a dispute between two major companies.

(Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)

Liana Aghajanian is TakePart's weekend editor. Her work has appeared in ForeignPolicy.com, BBC.com, Los Angeles Times, and TheAtlantic.com.

If you’re the type of person who hates to throw away food, consider this your spoiler alert.

Almost 1 million jars of unspoiled peanut butter have been sent to a New Mexico landfill in an effort to expedite the sale of a peanut-processing plant that recently declared bankruptcy. 

The peanut butter got stuck in a dispute between Sunland Foods Inc., a peanut butter processing firm, and warehouse club Costco, which owned the $2.8 million worth of peanuts used to make the 950,000 jars of PB.

The FDA suspended Sunland's food facility registration in 2012 following a national outbreak of salmonella poisoning traced to its facility. Peanut butter from Sunland, the country’s largest organic processor, sickened 42 people in 20 states; more than 76 products were recalled. Sixty-one percent of the reported illnesses were in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though FDA allowed Sunland to resume production in 2013, the company ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy last fall. The jars were collecting dust at the facility when Costco agreed to buy them all, reports The Associated Press. But the retailer rejected the shipment after receiving only a few loads, citing leaking peanut oil. 

Despite the PB's having been extensively tested and deemed safe by all parties, Costco refused to donate the jars to food banks or sell them to brokers that could find a home for the food.

So it was sent to the Curry County landfill in Clovis (at a cost of around $60,000). Clint Bunch, the public works director in Clovis, told AP that the peanut butter will be covered with dirt and mixed in with regular waste. Sunland, which sold more than 200 types of peanut products to grocery chains including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, was sold to Golden Boy Food Ltd. for $26 million. 

The Great Peanut Butter Dump of 2014 will be all the more troubling for nut butter lovers, as the peanuts were all of the Valencia variety, known for their bright red skin and sweet flavor. Now they're mixing with rotting lettuce, old bank statements, and horrible sweaters.

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