- About 200 victims of the 2006-2007 salmonella outbreak linked to ConAgra's Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter brands have come forward to claim restitution when the company faces sentencing in federal court.
- The judge overseeing the case delayed proceedings for more than a year so the government had more time to locate victims and their families.
- Last May, the government charged ConAgra Grocery Products Co., a ConAgra subsidiary, with one misdemeanor count of violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The company agreed to plead guilty in an agreement that included an $11.2 million settlement, the largest criminal fine ever paid in a food safety case.
The government and ConAgra's defense team are currently reviewing and evaluating the statements and supporting documents submitted by potential victims, Graham A. Thorpe, assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, said in the latest status report. These include the more than 150 victims who had already come forward by late March of this year and another 42 claimants filed with the court on June 8.
In addition to the $11.2 million settlement, which includes a fine of $8 million and forfeitures of $3.2 million, ConAgra also agreed to pay any court-ordered restitution. While 200 victims could add up to a large sum, the company managed to evade the full brunt of the outbreak's impact, which sickened at least 425 people across 44 states, according to the final report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The case demonstrates how far-reaching the impact can be for a company whose products are linked to a massive foodborne illness outbreak.
It also illustrates how important it is for manufacturers to ensure their plants account for all food safety risks and make the necessary changes to equipment, processes, personnel and documentation needed to ensure a sufficient plan is in place. Food Safety Modernization Act compliance is reason enough, but punishments—ranging from millions of dollars in fines and restitution to lengthy prison sentences for executives in the Peanut Corporation of America salmonella outbreak case—are another.