None of its Nut Butter products need to be recalled or withdrawn from the market, says Woody Mauthe, vice president of the Missouri-based East Wind Community Inc. He says all East Wind products are safe to eat.
Mauthe, who manages sales for the East Wind nut butter, said the commune is taking corrective actions to deal with some Salmonella contamination found inside its food manufacturing facility by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
FDA sent the 36-year old East Wind a “Warning Letter” earlier this month about samples taken inside its plant that tested positive for Salmonella.
East Wind manufactures Almond Butter, Peanut Butter, Organic Peanut Butter, Roasted Peanuts, Cashew Butter, Tahini, and Organic Tahini. Tahini is seed butter made from sesame seeds. The commune has been making Nut Butters since the 1980s.
Most of its sales are made through its own distribution network.
Mauthe said the East Wind nut butter plant went through its first FDA inspection in four or five years, and inspectors took about 100 samples from inside the plant. Seven returned positive for Salmonella.
“We took corrective action as soon as we knew what to do,” Mauthe told Food Safety News.
In its manufacturing processes, East Wind conducts a full spectrum of tests for the various bacteria that may cause food borne illnesses. “We’ve always come up negative,” Mauthe added.
FDA said in the Warning Letter that it considers products manufactured at the nut butter plant to be adulterated because they were “prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby [they] may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby [they] may have been rendered injurious to health.”
However, FDA did not interrupt or suggest calling back any production runs. Mauthe said the commune thought it was just waiting for instructions on eliminating any possible contamination.
FDA said samples were positive for Salmonella in seven different locations near both production lines. Serotypes S. Java was found in one sample, and S. Newport in the six others. FDA said five of the six S. Newport strains had identical Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns.
“This is significant because these five samples were located in five different locations in both production rooms indicating that S. Newport may have been transported throughout your production areas and established niche areas of colonize,” FDA’s Kansas City District Director John W. Thorsky said in the East Wind letter.
One of the six S. Newport serotypes was found near where caps are applied to seal open containers of the ready-to-eat product. “This close proximity increases the potential of contamination of the product with Salmonella,” Thorsky added.
The FDA warning urges East Wind to take “prompt and aggressive actions to eliminate the Salmonella contamination addressed in this letter.”
“Bacteria may enter and/or be transported through a food plant by a variety of routes that include, but are not limited to: roof leaks; the shoes of employees, contractors, and visitors; the wheels of fork lifts, pallet movers, and moveable equipment; soiled pallets; soiled raw material packaging; on raw ingredients, particularly peanuts, tree nuts, and cocoa beans; and rodent vectors,” FDA advises.
“Once established on production area floors, the organism can contaminate food and food-contact surfaces either through human or mechanical means.”
East Wind owns about 1,045 acres in the Missouri Ozarks.