May 20, 2015 — The Justice Department has announced that ConAgra will pay $11.2 million for its role in a peanut butter recall linked to at least 700 cases of Salmonella.
ConAgra must forfeit assets of $3.2 million and pay $8 million in criminal fine, the largest-ever criminal fine related to a food poisoning outbreak in U.S. history.
According to prosecutors:
“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.”
As early as October 2004, routine testing of finished peanut butter products at a facility in Sylvester, Georgia detected Salmonella. Employees even listed a number of ways the product may have been contaminated. However, ConAgra did not issue any recalls or fix the problems until after a massive outbreak of food poisoning.
Thousands of people may have been infected after eating Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter, although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) only confirmed about 700 cases. About 20% of those victims were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.
The recall triggered one of the most extensive food-safety recalls. In 2008, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) recalled about 4,000 peanut butter and nut butter products after they were linked to nine deaths, 166 hospitalizations, and up to 20,000 illnesses.
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