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Peanut Butter Salmonella Poisoning
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Peter Pan Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak Marks Year Anniversary

Feb 15, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter recall.  The salmonella tainted peanut butters where recalled by ConAgra foods on February 14, 2007, after they were linked to an outbreak of salmonella poisoning across the country.  Eventually, more than 600 cases of salmonella poisoning where blamed on Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter manufactured at ConAgra’s Sylvester, Georgia plant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Peter Pan peanut butter salmonella outbreak extended to 47 states and two deaths were attributed to the salmonella tainted peanut butter.  Though an unusually high incidence of salmonella poisoning was first noticed in Tennessee in November 2006, it is thought that the first illnesses attributable to the peanut butter may have occurred as early as March 2006.  However, it wasn’t until February 2007 that the CDC was able to trace the source of the illness to peanut butter produced by a ConAgra factory in Sylvester Georgia. ConAgra faulted a leaky roof and malfunctioning sprinkler system at its production facility for causing the Salmonella contamination.  That same month, ConAgra finally issued a recall of its Peter Pan and Great Value brand peanut butter produced at that factory.  The ConAgra plant in Georgia was closed for several months after the Peter Pan Peanut Butter salmonella outbreak.

Following the salmonella outbreak,  the Food &Drug Administration FDA, as well ConAgra, came under fire for their slow response to the Peter Pan Peanut Butter problems.  In April 2007, the Washington Post published documents proving that the FDA, as well as ConAgra, knew of contamination problems at the plant as far back as 2004. The agency took few corrective measures, assuming that ConAgra would address the situation itself. But ConAgra apparently did little to nothing to fix the problem.

The ConAgra plant that produced the salmonella peanut butter finally reopened last summer, with the company boasting that it had spent $15 million to repair problems that allowed the salmonella contamination to occur at the Georgia factory. Peter Pan Peanut Butter was also re-launched last August, amid a huge marketing blitz aimed at restoring customer faith in the product.

Unfortunately, the return of Peter Pan to stores did not end ConAgra’s salmonella woes.  In October 2007, the company’s store brand and Banquet Pot Pies were tied to yet another salmonella outbreak.  The CDC ultimately traced 272 cases of salmonella poisoning in 35 states to the tainted ConAgra pot pies. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigation into the Banquet Pot Pie Salmonella outbreak found flaws with record keeping at the Missouri plant that produced the pot pies, as well as deficiencies with ConAgra’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control plan that spells out what the company does to ensure product safety. The ConAgra Banquet Pot Pie Recall ended up costing ConAgra around $30 million.

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