ConAgra to pay the largest criminal fine ever in a U.S. food safety case

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The president of a ConAgra subsidiary entered a guilty plea on behalf of his company Tuesday. A U.S. District Court judge then approved a deal ConAgra reached with prosecutors to pay an $8 million fine plus $3.2 million in cash forfeitures. Disease detectives traced the salmonella to a plant in rural Sylvester, Georgia, that produced peanut butter for ConAgra under the Peter Pan label. In 2007, the company recalled all the peanut butter it had sold since 2004. The fine represents just one tenth of one percent of ConAgra’s current $8 billion market capitalization. Fortunately, no deaths were ever confirmed to be caused by the salmonella outbreak.

ConAgra said it didn’t know peanut butter was contaminated with salmonella before it was shipped. The company spent $275 million on upgrades and adopted new testing procedures to screen for contaminants.

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