ConAgra Foods To Face Criminal Charge For 2007 Peanut Butter Recall

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A subsidiary of ConAgra Foods is poised to plead guilty to a criminal charge and pay the largest-ever criminal fine in a food safety case after an outbreak in its peanut butter sickened at least 625 people in 47 states.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A unit of ConAgra Foods will pay out the largest-ever criminal fine in a food safety case. It's a resolution to the salmonella outbreak in peanut butter that sickened hundreds of people. The company has also agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge. NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: The case dates to 2007. That's when the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced they had traced a salmonella outbreak to peanut butter - specifically, peanut butter produced and shipped from a ConAgra plant in Georgia. Government officials identified more than 700 cases linked to the outbreak and thousands more that probably went unreported. Stuart Delery is the acting associate attorney general at the Justice Department.

STUART DELERY: This case is proof that the department is dedicated to using all the tools that we have two ensure that food processors and manufacturers and handlers live up to their obligations to protect the public safety.

JOHNSON: Delery oversaw the misdemeanor plea deal with ConAgra. Under the deal, the company has to pay $8 million in fines and forfeit $3 million more. Authorities say ConAgra has fixed problems in the Georgia plant that led to the contamination. And the company says its Peter Pan brand is safe, with no incidents for more than seven years. But the Justice Department has been active in policing other violations of food safety laws this year, prosecuting the CEO of the Peanut Corporation of America and employees at another company that sold tainted eggs - all part of a growing trend, Delery says.

DELERY: Health and safety of the American public is a top priority for the department and of mine. And that includes the safety of the food that we eat and the medicine that we take.

JOHNSON: Delery says there are more of those cases in the pipeline. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.