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FDA halts operations at peanut butter plant

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has halted operations of the country’s largest organic peanut butter processor, cracking down on salmonella poisoning for the first time with new enforcement authority the agency gained in a 2011 food safety law.

FDA officials found salmonella all over Sunland Inc.’s New Mexico processing plant after 41 people in 20 states, most of them children, were sickened by peanut butter manufactured at the plant and sold at Trader Joe’s. The suspension will prevent the company from distributing any food.

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The food safety law gave the FDA authority to suspend a company’s registration when food manufactured or held there has a ‘‘reasonable probability’’ of causing serious health problems or death.

Sunland sold hundreds of products to many of the nation’s largest grocery chains.

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