ConAgra Grocery Products – the company that sells Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter brands – was fined a record-breaking $8 million and forced to forfeit more than $3 million in assets. The sentence was finalized Tuesday as the company, which pleaded guilty in May 2015, was formally sentenced.
The deal resolved a lengthy criminal investigation into a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 625 people in 47 states. Investigators traced the source of the bacteria to a plant in Sylvester, Georgia, that produced Peter Pan and Great Value brands peanut butter for ConAgra.
In 2007, the company recalled all the peanut butter it had sold since 2004. However, most of the affected products had been eaten by the time the recall was issued.
“It made a lot of people sick,” said prosecutor Graham Thorpe as he described ConAgra’s decision to continue shipments from the Georgia plant despite lab tests that had twice detected the presence of salmonella. “The industry has taken notice of this prosecution.”
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was partially to blame for the outbreak, as the agency admitted it knew ConAgra’s plant was potentially contaminated with salmonella as early as 2005, but didn’t have adequate funds to investigate the problem. FDA took no action and salmonella reached customers two years later.
The 2007 Peter Pan peanut butter recall isn’t the only salmonella outbreak in recent history to be linked to the food. In 2008-2009, another outbreak linked to peanut butter from the Peanut Corporation of America sickened at least 714 people in 46 states, including nine deaths. The outbreak forced the recall of 3,913 products made by 361 companies, and even drew criticism from President Barack Obama, who said that parents shouldn’t have to worry about their children’s peanut butter, a food his daughter Sasha ate for lunch “probably three times a week.”
Source: CBS News