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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 Jim Sadler (3430529) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:08PM (#46616869)
    It has tested as safe. But maybe due to the ever looming threat of legal actions it is better to dump it. My notion would be to mix it in with hog rations as they would probably love it.
  • Landfill? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idji (984038) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:52PM (#46617125)
    Why is this going to landfill - how backward is that? Who does landfill anymore? That stuff is full of oils and proteins. It could be turned into biodiesel or put into a furnace to generate heat and electricity.
  • by IonOtter (629215) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @06:54PM (#46617137) Homepage

    This sort of thing has happened before, and it will happen again. An even better example was when the MV Cougar Ace almost sank, and 4700 brand new Mazda cars hung at a 60 degree angle for several months. [googleusercontent.com] They never moved, and they were all in seemingly perfect condition.

    Mazda chose to err on the side of caution, [neatorama.com] rather than risk a lawsuit. Or even worse, there was a very valid concern that they would become "Katrina Cars". A coat of paint, and they would be bundled up and sold in some other unsuspecting country. [nbcnews.com] (On a side-note, the destruction process is really cool! [wsj.com].)

    With waivers not being worth the paper they're printed on, it's simply not worth the risk of getting sued.

    And finally, there's the "soft damage" to take into consideration? Remember the kid in preschool who "had cooties"? That kid KEPT those cooties, right up until graduation day in high school. Costco might never allow a single jar to hit their normal distribution system, but just the simple fact that the peanut butter even exists at all, is a risk that someone, somewhere, will say, "Whoa, Costco peanut butter might have salmonella."

    Play "Telephone [wikipedia.org]" with that for a while, and suddenly Costco can't pay someone to take a jar of peanut butter. This is actually a very safe, very beneficial tactic for Costco.

    Now consumers can be absolutely guaranteed that they will never have to think about whether Costco peanut butter is safe.

    And in retail, that's money in the bank.

  • The underlying story may be this:

    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. [csmonitor.com]

    2) Costco has become poorly managed since James Sinegal [wikipedia.org] is no longer CEO.

    Ten years ago, Costco was wonderful. It was easy to make decisions about buying anything we saw at Costco, because someone else had been careful to stock only reputable products, products that people would buy if they had done serious research. Now we have to do our own research.

    Costco employees still praise James Senegal. They sometimes criticize the poor quality of items that Costco now stocks.
  • by SJester (1676058) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @07:05PM (#46617199) Journal
    Anecdotal, but I have another. A friend is finishing her last semester at a major culinary institute; naturally, they generate a lot of spare food at the school. But they are not allowed to take any of it off the campus. Instead, it is destroyed, and for the same reason stated : the school would be sunk if someone contracted food poisoning and sued. The students and staff do eat but sign hefty waivers. Although I do wonder - Costco does at least sell this food under normal circumstances, so apparently they do have a means of dealing with potential suits. I suspect this is more that they don't have protection for this avenue of distribution, only for sale. I don't know how that works in legal terms though.
  • by theskipper (461997) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @07:58PM (#46617491)

    The real question is whether that projected liability cost would offset the bad PR cost (intangible but notable).

    Really surprised Costco let it get to this point and didn't find a middle ground to spin it. They had to know social media would be all over this in a really bad way (facts be damned as usual).

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @08:44PM (#46617727) Homepage

    Quite. People are ready to lynch Costco for applying some sort of standards to what they will buy and put on the shelf. They will reject things that Walmart will happily accept. This is by no means the first time. This is probably not the first pile of food to be "wasted" because Costco chose to err on the side of safety.

    I can understand why they simply don't want to be associated with the listeria outbreak factory. It boggles my mind that ANY ONE here wants to push the issue.

    Even if they've tested this stuff, I would still be suspicious of it just because of where it came from.

  • by angst_ridden_hipster (23104) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @11:02PM (#46618223) Homepage Journal

    Back in the day (1980s), I helped run an emergency food pantry in Southern California. At the time, Sol Price (founder of Price Club, which I believe is one of the constituent chains that merged to become CostCo) donated pallets of dried milk to us to redistribute. In general, these were pallets where there had been damage, so some of the packages were not usable - the vast majority of the packages, however, were fine.

    At our pantry, that donation made up a substantial part of what we gave out to people, especially those with children.

    I always thought it was both generous and great business sense for them to donate that food. After all, Price Club got a tax write off, there was less waste, and the hungry people got food without it impacting Price Club's sales.

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