Bazzini Nuts manufacturing is the first operation forced out of Hunts Point by the new FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, but it may not be the last.
A.L. Bazzini Co. has been based out of New York City for the past 125 years, and Hunts Point for the past 13. On Wednesday, April 20 the company announced that its manufacturing operation would be moving to Allentown, Pennsylvania in July.
Bazzini CEO Rocco Damato said it would have cost tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the Hunts Point facility it rents from the city, to meet the standards of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
It already owned a newer facility in Allentown thanks to its acquisition of Barton’s chocolate company, so the decision was made.
The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4. The legislation increases both regulation and standards for food producers in an attempt to prevent contamination outbreaks.
Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, said that while the law was well-intentioned, the Bazzini move was an indicator of the negative impact the legislation could have on Hunts Point.
“The Food Safety Act not only impacted Bazzini,” Cintron said. “It is going to impact the rest of the food producers in Hunts Point.”
Damato, who did not return calls, had put the number of jobs leaving Hunts Point as a result of the move in the mid-50s.
Cintron said that she met with him, however, and expected the number to wind up somewhere between 25-30. She also said employees whose jobs are moving to Pennsylvania will be able to keep them, should they decide to move.
Daniel Laboy is vice president of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1814, which represents the workers at the Bronx plant. He said he had yet to speak with Damato about the move, but he had no ill-will against Bazzini.
“It’s a hardship to lose members,” Laboy said. “It’s not easy. We just have to deal with that decision, but it’s probably the regulation, not the company”
Josephine Infante, president of the Hunts Point EDC did not find any fault with Bazzini’s either.
“I think the FDA regulations are forcing companies to leave,” she said. “He’s had an operation in Pennsylvania. It’s a business decision.”
Bazzini’s peanuts are famously sold at Yankee Stadium. It also produces other nuts such as pistachios, almonds, cashews, walnuts and macadamias.
The company’s back-office management as well as some distribution will remain in Hunts Point. Damato has expressed interest in ramping-up Bazzini’s retail presence throughout all of New York City, and the peanuts will still be sold at Yankee Stadium.
Nevertheless, Cintron said she expects all Bazzini production to leave Hunts Point. She plans on taking action before any other Bronx companies follow suit.
Her first course of action will be reaching out to elected officials who represent New York to retain Hunts Point businesses.
“While we believe in food safety, Hunts Point is a multi-billion dollar food resource, not just for New York, but for the whole eastern region,” Cintron said. “BOEDC has a relationship with Gillibrand’s and Schumer’s offices, and this is a conversation we will have to have.”
©2011 Community News Group