By Christina Calloway
Locals think there could have been better uses for the near million jars of peanut butter that were dumped in Clovis’ landfill.
The criticized move was made to expedite the sale of Sunland Inc.’s peanut-processing plant to Golden Boy Foods Ltd. of Canada, a $26 million deal that is expected to be completed next week.
The peanut butter, which was tested several times and found to be safe, belongs to Costco Wholesale. It had been sitting in the defunct peanut giant’s warehouse since Sunland filed for bankruptcy last fall. Court filings indicate the product was made with $2.8 million worth of Valencia peanuts.
Despite the peanut butter being safe, Curry County landfill employee Tim Stacy assures that no one will be able to consume the peanut butter once it’s dumped because it was immediately rolled over with a bulldozer, destroying the supply. Stacy added more trash will then be dumped on top of the pile.
Bankruptcy trustee Clarke Coll said he had no other choice after Costco refused to take shipment of the Sunland Inc. product and declined requests to let it be donated to food banks or repackaged or sold to brokers who provide food to institutions like prisons.
“We considered all options,” Coll said. “They didn’t agree.”
A representative for Costco said Friday the peanut butter was not produced, packaged or stored to Costco standards and “therefore was deemed unsuitable.”
Portales Community Services Center Director Pam O’Malley said the senior citizens who visit her site “sure could have used that” peanut butter.
“We would have been glad to distribute that,” said O’Malley, whose center offers commodities to the community.
Portales Mayor Sharon King said she understands she has no say in the situation but agrees the peanut butter went to waste.
“We understand that it’s Costco’s property, but it could be better served by giving it to someone that can use it,” King said.
After extensive testing, Costco agreed to a court order authorizing the trustee to sell the wholesale giant the peanut butter. But after getting eight loads, Costco rejected it as “not merchantable” because of leaky peanut oil.
Coll said “all parties agreed there’s nothing wrong with the peanut butter from a health and safety issue,” but court records show that on a March 19 conference call Costco said “it would not agree to any disposition … other than destruction.”
So instead of selling or donating the peanut butter, the estate is paying about $60,000 to haul the 950,000 jars of nut butter — or about 25 tons — to the Clovis landfill.
The last of 58 truckloads was expected Friday.
Sunland made peanut butter under a number of different labels for retailers such as Costco, Kroger and Trader Joe’s, along with products under its own name. But the plant was shut down in September 2012 after its products were linked to 41 salmonella cases in 20 states.
It later reopened for about five months, but shut down last October after the company’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.
Sunland processed Valencia peanuts, a sweet variety of peanut unique to the region and preferred for natural butters because it is flavorful without additives.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.