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Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill 440

Posted by samzenpus
from the waste-not-want-not dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Guardian reports that a million jars of peanut butter are going to be dumped in a New Mexico landfill and bulldozed over after retailer Costco refused to take shipment of the peanut butter and declined requests to let it be donated to food banks or repackaged or sold to brokers who provide food to institutions like prisons. The peanut butter comes from a bankrupt peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a salmonella outbreak in 2012 and although 'all parties agreed there's nothing wrong with the peanut butter from a health and safety issue,' court records show that on a 19 March conference call Costco said 'it would not agree to any disposition ... other than destruction.'

The product was tested extensively and determined to be safe. Costco initially agreed to allowing the peanut butter to be sold, but rejected it as 'not merchantable' because of leaking peanut oil. So instead of selling or donating the peanut butter, with a value estimated at $2.6m, the estate is paying about $60,000 to transport 950,000 jars – or about 25 tons – to the Curry County landfill in Clovis, where public works director Clint Bunch says it 'will go in with our regular waste and covered with dirt'. Despite the peanut butter being safe, Curry County landfill employee Tim Stacy says that no one will be able to consume the peanut butter once it's dumped because it will be immediately rolled over with a bulldozer, destroying the supply. Stacy added more trash will then be dumped on top of the pile. Sonya Warwick, spokeswoman for New Mexico's largest food bank, declined to comment directly on the situation, but she noted that rescued food accounted for 74% of what Roadrunner Food Bank distributed across New Mexico last year. 'Access to rescued food allows us to provide a more well-rounded and balanced meal to New Mexicans experiencing hunger.'"
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Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill

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  • by Kuroji (990107) <kuroji@gmail.com> on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:02PM (#46616829)

    The company shut down in 2012. These were produced prior to the company's closure. This is probably not safe for human consumption at this point.

    Consumer peanut butter's got a shelf life of roughly a year or two at most, generally. This stuff is on the edge of that point, if not past. A million jars of peanut butter being donated would probably sit on the shelves in a home being eaten over the course of a few months, which definitely puts it past the point where the peanut oil may begin going rancid -- and that's not accounting for all the jars that will sit in storage, probably for months if not years, waiting to be given out.

    Donated food is usually donated because something was mislabelled or a pallet came loose and it wasn't suitable for sale due to damage to the container that doesn't jeopardize the product itself. This has been in storage for years. This is not suitable for donation, this is a bunch of jerks trying to make themselves look good and try to drum up donations while making a company that HAS given them donations in the past look bad because they're not giving them donations right now.

  • by Radak (126696) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:06PM (#46616851) Journal

    The company shut down in 2012. These were produced prior to the company's closure. This is probably not safe for human consumption at this point.

    According to TFA, the plant shut down in 2012 after the salmonella outbreak, but then reopened, closing again in October 2013. Presumably the peanut butter being landfilled will have been produced in late 2013, which leaves it well within reasonable shelf life.

  • There's no liability (Score:5, Informative)

    by mapuche (41699) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:11PM (#46616881) Homepage

    Clinton signed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Emerson_Good_Samaritan_Act_of_1996

    So no legal reason no to donate food.

  • by mapuche (41699) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:15PM (#46616909) Homepage

    There's a law that avoids liability for food donation:

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ210/pdf/PLAW-104publ210.pdf

  • by thesandbender (911391) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:17PM (#46616919)
    People lining up at food banks aren't going to be going to costco and buying peanut butter in bulk. The same goes for families whose children benefit from school meal programs.

    Unfortunately there is a degree of truth to the OP's comment about Costco being afraid of getting sued. I used to volunteer at "under privileged" schools and staff were specifically told not to give food to children in need but to direct them to one of the official programs. Litigation was cited as one of the reasons, as well as concern about children flying under the radar and not getting all the help they needed, etc. The cafeteria wasn't even allowed to give out unused food. The school district in this case was very concerned about getting their butts sued off because of a well intentioned act that went bad (it had happened before). It was a disheartening situation all the way around.
  • by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai@gmaEINST ... minus physicist> on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:23PM (#46616953) Homepage
    I actually agree with the parent. Every single jar of peanut butter is a lawsuit waiting to happen, even if they give it away. Even if it's tested safe, Costco still assumes partial liability by handing that peanut butter over to the public. You could repurpose the lot into fertilizer or compost, but it's cheaper to bury the lot.
  • by bondsbw (888959) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:24PM (#46616959)

    You just couldn't read all three sentences, could you?

  • Re:Viva USA (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms@nOspam.infamous.net> on Sunday March 30, 2014 @07:14PM (#46617249) Homepage

    Over 20 years ago I watched news video from California plowing a HUGE mountain of perfectly good, edible oranges into the ground.

    Goes back a lot farther than 20 years -- there's a passage in The Grapes of Wrath that talks about perfectly good produce being destroyed in order to prop up prices:

    The works of the roots of the vines, of the trees, must be destroyed to keep up the price, and this is the saddest, bitterest thing of all. Carloads of oranges dumped on the ground. The people came for miles to take the fruit, but this could not be. How would they buy oranges at twenty cents a dozen if they could drive out and pick them up? And men with hoses squirt kerosene on the oranges, and they are angry at the crime, angry at the people who have come to take the fruit. A million people hungry, needing the fruit- and kerosene sprayed over the golden mountains. And the smell of rot fills the country. Burn coffee for fuel in the ships. Burn corn to keep warm, it makes a hot fire. Dump potatoes in the rivers and place guards along the banks to keep the hungry people from fishing them out. Slaughter the pigs and bury them, and let the putrescence drip down into the earth.

    There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificate- died of malnutrition- because the food must rot, must be forced to rot. The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quick-lime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

  • by flargleblarg (685368) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @07:39PM (#46617373)

    True, they will lose 950,000 jars in sale if the would donate.

    Your statement is ludicrous. If they donate the peanut butter to the exact people who shop at Costco and who would have bought peanut butter anyway, then yes, they would lose sales. But that's not even remotely what would happen. What would happen is they would donate the peanut butter to people who wouldn't have bought it at Costco anyway. They would not lose out on one cent of sales./P.

  • by jrumney (197329) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @07:53PM (#46617471) Homepage

    1) We don't know what actually happened between Costco and the testing facilities and suppliers. Even though samples were tested, there could be a concern that there were problems in the food that was not tested. Costco has not handled the public relations about this incident in a sensible manner: Costco officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

    In true Slashdot spirit, I've only read the summary, but even that was enough to tell me that Costco is doing the right thing here.

    The product was tested extensively and determined to be safe. Costco initially agreed to allowing the peanut butter to be sold, but rejected it as 'not merchantable' because of leaking peanut oil.

    The jars are not sealed. They might test OK now, but by the time the food banks get through the stock, who knows what organisms have made the jar their home.

  • by khallow (566160) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @08:19PM (#46617599)

    That is because under law, the corporation made the decision and did the crime.

    No, it's because the US Department of Justice decided not to enforce [nytimes.com] the law. That sort of corruption doesn't have anything to do with the business being a corporation.

  • by scarboni888 (1122993) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @08:35PM (#46617689)

    The ONLY thing required to make delicious and nutritious peanut butter is peanuts. The salt and sugar and everything else added in is a scam and degrades the product.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @08:47PM (#46617743)

    I'm with you at the boycott, but please don't make the poor workers suffer for the sins of their bigwigs. Them having to restock the jars of peanut butter you take out and don't buy won't even register upstairs.

    The only voice they understand up there is that of your money. The best way to tell them how you feel about their policy is simply to not buy your stuff there. The second best is to at least avoid the peanut butter. And, and that's important, too, spread the word!

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @11:31PM (#46618339) Homepage Journal

    No, Costco isn't for the >$250k set. It's one of those places where you buy a 24 rolls of toilet paper in a package instead of 4. The prices are very reasonable, and adjusted for the higher quality, are comparable to Sam's Club (which is owned by Wal-Mart), which does the same "big-lot" stuff.

    In fact, Costco is a pretty responsible company. They pay their employees more than all of the other mainstream retailers and give them decent benefits. They find ways to keep costs low, for example, by only allowing payment by cash or American express, if I remember correctly. Their prices on TVs and consumer electronics are pretty good, but there's not much in the way of floor sales staff to help you out.

    I'm all in favor of boycotts. I think it's one of the best tools to influence corporations next to labor strikes. But you have to make sure you have the right targets.

    Rather than worried about losing peanut butter sales directly, they might be worried that if it turns out there are some health problems with these packages and they give them to food pantries, it could really hurt their image. You know, "Costo Poisons Poor People" is probably not what you want to see in the paper if you're Costco.

    Anyway, I buy my peanut butter from small local stores, who grind up the peanuts themselves and fill up the little tub I bring them, adding about 1/4 cup of flax seeds for every 2 cups of peanuts. I love those flax seeds. They add omega somethings or other plus they make me shit like a goose, which is always a bonus.

Testing can show the presense of bugs, but not their absence. -- Dijkstra

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