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Peanut Butter Salmonella Poisoning
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Peter Pan Peanut Butter Back In Stores Following Salmonella Recall

Aug 29, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP Six months after a Salmonella outbreak forced ConAgra to issue a massive Peter Pan Peanut Butter Recall the food giant is putting Peter Pan back on the shelf.  Once the number one selling brand in much of the United States, ConAgra is hoping that former fans of Peter Pan Peanut Butter will give it another chance even though it was linked to more than 600 cases of Salmonella poisoning earlier this year.

In February, ConAgra’s Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butters were recalled after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) linked those brands to a Salmonella outbreak.  The peanut butter Salmonella eventually sickened 628 people in 47 states.  ConAgra faulted a leaky roof and malfunctioning sprinkler system at its production facility for causing the Salmonella contamination. The plant in Sylvester, Georgia was closed due to the recall, but reopened earlier this summer.  

ConAgra began returning Peter Pan Peanut Butter to store shelves last week amid a huge marketing blitz.  The company is optimistic that its marketing campaign will encourage former customers put off by the Salmonella contamination to give Peter Pan a try.  The company said that by early August, 90-percent of its retail customers had already placed orders for Peter Pan Peanut Butter.  Right now, Peter Pan is available in three sizes of creamy and crunchy varieties.   Other varieties, including lower fat Peter Pan, will appear in stores sometime next year.

To regain the trust of customers who might be suspicious following the Salmonella debacle, ConAgra is backing Peter Pan with 100-percent guarantee. Prior to the launch, ConAgra mailed out 2 million coupons for free Peter Pan Peanut Butter, as well as $1-off coupons.  Most of those coupons went to people who contacted ConAgra about the recall.  ConAgra has also redesigned the Peter Pan Peanut Butter jar, and it includes a “New Look” label.  

But it remains to be seen if free Peter Pan and a new label will be enough to restore trust in Peter Pan Peanut Butter.   ConAgra had been criticized for not recalling its Salmonella-tainted peanut butters soon enough.  Though people started becoming sick as early as March 2006, it wasn’t until February 2007 that ConAgra finally issued a recall of its Peter Pan and Great Value brand peanut butter.  In April 2007, the Washington Post published documents proving that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as ConAgra, knew of contamination problems at the Sylvester, Georgia plant in 2004.  The FDA took few corrective measures, choosing instead to let ConAgra deal with the problems.  Unfortunately, whatever the company did was not enough to prevent the Salmonella outbreak.

ConAgra says that it has spent $15 million to repair problems that allowed the Salmonella contamination to occur at the Georgia factory. And the company boasts that its new marketing campaign is the biggest investment the company has ever made in Peter Pan Peanut Butter.  Why ConAgra did not make a bigger investment in the safety of its Peter Pan Peanut Butter factory prior to the recall is a question that remains to be answered.   But it is certain that all the money ConAgra is spending to re-launch Peter Pan will do little to help the 628 people injured by the Salmonella-laced peanut butter.

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