Retail giant Costco was blamed this week for causing a million jars of perfectly edible peanut butter to be dumped into a New Mexico landfill. “Those trucks carrying it to the dump went right by the front door of my food bank," said Melinda Joy Pattison, who is executive director of the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico. "It wasn't like it would have been out of the way.” The Christian Science Monitor reported the story on Friday, March 28.
It seems litigation was involved, as it usually is. The product was made out of Costco-owned peanuts, which gives the retailer the final word, but it was produced in a Sunland, Inc. plant which has gone under due to a previous salmonella scare. Costco refuses to sell any left-over products from the bankrupt plant, and it declined to accept shipment of this one. Nor would Costco agree to let the food be donated anywhere; it insisted the peanut butter be dumped.
Pattison added, “For it to just be deliberately thrown away is disappointing.” She went on to say that peanut butter is a major source of protein and a staple for hungry people. Her food bank places single-serve peanut butter cups in packages it gives to children whose parents rely on its services.
Other options might have been food brokers or repackaging the product for prisons or institutions. Everyone agreed that there was no serious quality problem with the peanut butter dumped – in fact, it was of high quality – but Costco said it had “leaked oil.” They called it unsaleable. Hungry people could have stirred it a bit before use. Why it could not be donated is unanswered, as Costco refused interviews on the subject.
This situation is totally out of reach with modern thinking, and it will not set well with Costco customers. The estimated value of the food was more than $2 million dollars. Instead, it cost some $60 thousand dollars just to cart the stuff away and bury it in the dirt.