May 20, 2015 — ConAgra Foods Inc. has pled guilty and will pay $11.2 million in criminal fines for delaying a recall after finding Salmonella in peanut butter products sold under the Peter Pan and Great Value brands, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
ConAgra will pay a criminal fine of $8 million and forfeit assets of $3.2 million. The company admitted that it sold peanut butter they knew was contaminated with Salmonella:
“The company admitted in the plea agreement that samples obtained after the recall showed that peanut butter made at the Sylvester plant on nine different dates between Aug. 4, 2006, and Jan. 29, 2007, was contaminated with salmonella.”
Furthermore, on two dates in October 2004, routine testing at a plant in Sylvester, Georgia identified finished peanut butter that was contaminated with Salmonella. Employees at the plant suggested many sources of contamination, but no recall was issued and the company did not correct the problems until after the outbreak in 2007.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identified more than 700 people who were infected with Salmonella and estimated that thousands more went unreported. No deaths were linked to the outbreak, but about 20% of victims were hospitalized.
The infections were the first of what turned out to be a large number of peanut butter-related Salmonella recalls. Less than two years later, one of the most extensive food recalls in U.S. history was issued by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). By late 2008, nine people were dead, 166 had been hospitalized, up to 20,000 people were sickened, and 4,000 products were recalled.
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