Smuckers in the hot seat as deadline looms on Jif peanut butter investigation (2023)

The J.M. Smucker company has five working days left to respond to an FDA warning letter about conditions in its Jif peanut butter plant that was the source of a Salmonella outbreak in 2022.

If the Valentine’s Day deadline is not met, the iconic company will be in the crosshairs of the Food and Drug Administration, but the agency wouldn’t tell Food Safety News what actions it may take or where it is in the investigation process. The boilerplate language in the Jan. 24 warning letter states:

“Include an explanation of each step being taken to prevent the recurrence of violations, as well as copies of related documentation. If you cannot complete corrective actions within 15 working days, state the reason for the delay and the time within which you will do so. If you believe that your products are not in violation of the Act, include your reasoning and any supporting information for our consideration.”

The letter is part of an ongoing investigation into the cause of the Salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 21 people in 17 states in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Senftenberg matched Salmonella found in the production plant.

The FDA said the company did not use effective means of removing contaminated peanut butter from equipment lines after detecting Salmonella on Feb. 4, 9, and 10, 2022.

According to the CDC, illnesses started on dates ranging from February 20, 2022, through May 24, 2022.

(Video) deadline looms on Jif peanut butter investigation

The Food and Drug Administration sent its warning letter eight months after inspecting the Jif peanut butter plant in Lexington, KY. That inspection, which ran from May 19 through June 9, 2022, resulted in a recall on May 20, 2022, of all peanut butter manufactured at the facility from Oct. 1, 2021, to May 20, 2022.

The warning letter details many infractions at the production plant, but the FDA has not yet released the Form 483 report that was generated following the inspection. Form 483 reports are only issued when severe infractions are discovered.

An FDA spokesperson told Food Safety News “the agency is unable to comment on enforcement actions while they are pending. As a result of this multi-state outbreak, the FDA began an investigation in April 2022 and found that peanut butter manufactured at Smucker’s facility was the source of the outbreak.”

The spokesperson did confirm for Food Safety News that Smuckers had repeatedly discovered Salmonella in the production plant and in its finished product.

“During an inspection, the FDA collected evidence that on numerous occasions, Smucker’s internal testing found Salmonella in both the environment and in the finished product,” the spokesperson said. “Although Smucker’s attempted to address some potential sources of Salmonella and tested the peanut butter for Salmonella before distributing it, the firm’s actions were not sufficient to prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers and causing illnesses. The FDA has asked the firm to respond within 15 working days stating how they will address these issues.”

The warning letter has harsh words for the Smucker company’s operation of its Jif peanut butter plant, saying that the product made there was adulterated because it was “prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have been contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.” Such infractions are illegal under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and can result in fines, plant closures, and jail time for owners, operators, and other employees.

(Video) Jif Peanut Butter Recall: Get reimbursed

The FDA inspectors found records showing that the presence of the same Salmonella Senftenberg strain was found in the Lexington, KY, facility since 2010, which matched the clinical cluster. That match is indicative of a resident strain, according to the FDA.

The FDA nailed down further contamination during its inspection in 2022.

“Your finished product testing records from January 1, 2021, to February 23, 2022, indicate that you detected Salmonella in your RTE 9ready-to-eat) peanut butter on numerous occasions, i.e., October 22 and December 15, 2021; and February 4, 9, 10, 20, and 21, 2022, and that your corrective actions were not sufficient to address the root cause of the contamination,” according to the FDA warning letter.

The following excerpt from the warning letter outlines some of the problems. The notation of (b)(4) indicates information that the FDA has redacted from the publicly released version of the warning letter.

“For example, on February 17-18, 2022, you identified a leak in the air intake vent of the cooling chamber of Roaster (b)(4), as a source of water entering your equipment, and stated you immediately repaired the vent. However, on February 20, 2022, after the repair was completed, you detected Salmonella in (b)(4) of the (b)(4) lots on Lines (b)(4) ((b)(4), and (b)(4)) using your standard (b)(4) samples per lot sampling program. Subsequently, per your practice, you “collect[ed] [and tested] (b)(4) samples ((b)(4) sample composites) from the lot[s] produced immediately prior to and after the product that tested positive.” After testing (b)(4)lots that initially tested negative for Salmonella, you identified two additional positive lots:

  • (b)(4), Salmonella detected in 2 of (b)(4)-sample composites
  • (b)(4), Salmonella detected in 2 of (b)(4) sample composites

“The next day, on February 21, 2022, you detected Salmonella in a (b)(4) lot on Line (b)(4) using your standard (b)(4) samples per lot sampling program. Similar to February 20, after testing (b)(4) lots that initially tested negative for Salmonella you identified additional positive lots:

  • (b)(4), Salmonella detected in 5 of (b)(4)-sample composites
  • (b)(4), Salmonella detected in 4 of (b)(4)-sample composites
  • (b)(4), Salmonella detected in 5 of (b)(4)-sample composites
  • (b)(4), Salmonella detected in 4 of (b)(4)-sample composites

“You indicated that ‘[e]ven when the additional samples test negative, we destroy all (b)(4) production lots to provide the further assurance we have bracketed and eliminated any potential contamination.’ However, your positive test results for lots for which Salmonella was previously not detected show the limitations of reliance on your testing program to identify contamination as a way to prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers. Further, the S. Senftenberg outbreak shows that neither your corrective actions nor your finished product testing were adequate to prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers and causing illnesses.”

In addition, the FDA’s warning letter outlines many other problems within the plant and in procedures used in the production and testing of peanut butter made at the facility.

There were problems with Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls including but not limited to:

  • You did not identify and evaluate the hazard of contamination with environmental pathogens, such as Salmonella spp. at certain post-roasting processing steps, as a known or reasonably foreseeable hazard to determine whether it requires preventive control;
  • Your corrective action procedures did not ensure appropriate action was taken, when necessary, to reduce the likelihood that environmental contamination will recur;
  • Your environmental monitoring records from July 24, 2018, November 26, 2018, October 9, 2019, and November 4, 2019, revealed four Salmonella-positive environmental swabs located at roaster (b)(4), stairs leading to a platform “(b)(4)”, the floor of the entrance to the blanch nut tank rooms (b)(4) and (b)(4), and the floor broom in the roaster (b)(4). You determined that the root causes for each Salmonella-positive environmental swab were roof leaks or increased foot traffic during repairs in response to roof leaks; and
  • Your environmental monitoring records from 2021 revealed five Salmonella-positive environmental swabs in your facility on July 6, July 8, July 12, September 3, and November 16, 2021. These Salmonella-positive swabs were found on the floors near your blanch nut tank rooms, roaster booth (b)(4), the stairs at the top level of the nut house (b)(4), and the stairs leading to a platform “(b)(4)”. The detection of Salmonella in your facility in 5 locations in 2021, many of which were similar to locations where you detected Salmonella in 2018 and 2019, show that your corrective action procedures in response to environmental contamination in 2018 and 2019 were not sufficient.

The FDA stated that precautions taken at the production plant were not enough to ensure clean products and specifically cited water leaks as an ongoing problem.

“We are concerned that the history of contamination events associated with water in your facility and results from the WGS database suggest that Salmonella may be resident within your production facility,” according to the FDA.

Puddles of standing water ranging in size from 4 feet wide to 8 feet wide were found in the production plant. Plus, a Smucker’s internal investigation found a defective flange on a cooler inlet of a peanut roaster that allowed rainwater and unfiltered air to enter the roaster’s cooling zones.

The FDA inspectors noted that while some corrective actions may help some problems, “constant vigilance is needed to ensure water does not become a source or route of cross-contamination in your dry processing environment.

In a response to comments on the inspectors’ concerns, the company stated that it had found Salmonella in the finished product on Oct. 22 and Dec. 15, 2021. It told the FDA that it has “a robust finished product testing program specifically because of this possibility, as even a validated kill step, such as the roasters that are validated to deliver over a (b)(4) kill, does not eliminate the potential that Salmonella could survive the roasting process on rare occasion.”

The FDA disagrees with that assessment. Inspectors evaluated the roasting process and disagreed with the company’s point about a “properly validated and implemented process control at your peanut roasting step would allow for the survival of Salmonella such that the pathogen would be detected in your finished product because it survived the roasting step.”

The full warning letter can be read by clicking here.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)


How do I get a refund from Jif? ›

You can fill out an online refund request here or you can call 800-828-9980.

Is Jif peanut butter ever coming back? ›

We're back! We have resumed accepting orders from our retail customers for peanut butter and our teams are working tirelessly to fill store shelves and meet consumer demand. We suggest referring to your preferred retailer for the best availability information locally.

What can I do with recalled Jif peanut butter? ›

JIF CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER 16 OZ. The company says after submitting the recall form, people should dispose of their Jif peanut butter product. After reviewing the claim, they will send coupons for replacement products for any items covered by the recall.

Where is the lot code on Jif? ›

All of the affected Jif peanut butter products can be identified by their lot code numbers, which is often found near the "best by" date (it's different from the UPC number on the bar code).

Will Jif refund me for recalled peanut butter? ›

Yes, you can get a reimbursement from Jif for your recalled peanut butter.

What can I do with recalled peanut butter? ›

JIF CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER 12 OZ. JIF CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER 16 OZ. The company says after submitting the recall form, people should dispose of the affected Jif peanut butter product. After reviewing the claim, they will send coupons for replacement products for any items covered by the recall.

How long is the peanut butter shortage going to last? ›

Expect to be waiting until fall 2022.

Which peanut butter tastes most like Jif? ›

Though comparable to Jif and Skippy in terms of that commercial creaminess texture, Peanut Butter & Co. is more natural-tasting. Many tasters really loved this one.

Should I throw away recalled peanut butter? ›

Check any Jif peanut butter you have at home to make sure it was not recalled. Do not eat any recalled foods. Throw them away or return them to where you bought them.

Can you get money back for recalled food? ›

When a manufacturer recalls a food product, they provide instructions on what to do with the product. Typically, the instructions will indicate that you need to do one of the following: Return the product to the store where you bought it for a refund.

What happens if you eat recalled peanut butter? ›

The CDC recommends calling a health care provider if you have one or more of these symptoms after eating recalled peanut butter: Diarrhea and a fever above 102°F. Diarrhea for more than three days. Bloody diarrhea.

Where do I look to see if my peanut butter is recalled? ›

In the lot code, if the first four digits are between 1274 and 2140, and if the next three numbers after that are '425', this product has been recalled and you should not consume this product.

How long can peanut butter last without refrigeration? ›

An open jar of peanut butter stays fresh up to three months in the pantry. After that, it's recommended to store the peanut butter in the fridge (where it can maintain its quality for another 3-4 months). If you don't refrigerate, oil separation can occur.

What peanut butter has the longest shelf life? ›

Powdered peanut butter is by far the best type for long-term storage. It is made by removing the fat and grinding the remaining proteins into a powder. You simply add water or oil to rehydrate it before eating. Because there is almost no fat, powdered peanut butter won't go bad as regular peanut butter will.

What is the best selling peanut butter in America? ›

Jif was owned by Procter Gamble until 2001, when it was purchased by J. M. Smucker Company, which owns it today. Not a bad purchase when you consider that Jif has been the leading peanut butter brand in the United States since 1981. Skippy has been around since 1932 and is sold in the United States and China.

What tastes better Skippy or Jif? ›

With all of this in mind the clear winner is Jif. Unlike Skippy, Jif stays rich and creamy throughout the baking process. It also helps the cookie to stay impeccably sweet, but also salty without either flavor taking over.

What's better Jif or Skippy? ›

The Jif brand contains 10 fewer milligrams of sodium, 1 less gram of added sugar, and more calcium, iron, niacin, vitamin E, and potassium per serving when compared with SKIPPY.

Why is Jif peanut butter discontinued? ›

Jif peanut butter is being recalled for potential salmonella contamination. Since the initial announcement, more than a dozen recalls related to the peanut butter have been issued.

Will Costco replace recalled Jif peanut butter? ›

Costco, for example, instructs its members to throw away impacted Jif peanut butter and to go to their nearest club for a full refund.

Why is Walmart out of Jif peanut butter? ›

Costco, Walmart, and many other stores across the nation are currently pulling Jif peanut butter from their shelves due to a recent Salmonella outbreak. The recalled products have been sold in stores across the U.S. as well as in Canada, where the peanut butter is now also being pulled from the shelves out of caution.

What is the news about Jif peanut butter? ›

The FDA, along with CDC and state and local partners, investigated a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Senftenberg infections linked to certain Jif brand peanut butter products produced at the J.M. Smucker Company facility in Lexington, Kentucky.

Is Jif peanut butter owned by China? ›

Jif is an American brand of peanut butter made by The J.M. Smucker Company, which purchased the brand from Procter & Gamble in 2001. The J.M. Smucker Co.

What is the safest peanut butter to eat? ›

  1. Jif Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter. ...
  2. Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread. ...
  3. Justin's Classic Peanut Butter Squeeze Packs. ...
  4. Crazy Richard's All-natural Crunchy Peanut Butter. ...
  5. 365 By Whole Foods Market Organic Creamy Peanut Butter. ...
  6. Rx Nut Butter Peanut Butter. ...
  7. Thrive Market Organic Creamy Peanut Butter.
Feb 23, 2021

Does peanut butter go bad? ›

An open jar of peanut butter stays fresh up to three months in the pantry. After that, it's recommended to store the peanut butter in the fridge (where it can maintain its quality for another 3-4 months). If you don't refrigerate, oil separation can occur.

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