ConAgra May Face Federal Misdemeanor Charges For 2007 Tainted Peanut Butter Case

Image (1) peanut2.png for post 5296338Do you remember what you ate eight years ago? The government does. Maybe. People who filed recall claims for Peter Pan or Great Value (Walmart) peanut butters that were recalled in 2007 received a letter this week notifying them that they were victims of a crime. A crime? Yes, ConAgra Foods may face misdemeanor charges for its role in a salmonella outbreak that made hundreds of people ill.

No, this isn’t the Peanut Corporation of America salmonella outbreak in 2009, or the Sundland salmonella outbreak in 2012. This case is about an earlier peanut butter Salmonella outbreak that you may not even remember. Peanut butter from a ConAgra plant was recalled in early 2007, with 425 confirmed cases of illness, about 20% of whom ended up hospitalized. There were probably many more people who were infected, but not seriously enough that they saw a health care professional.

Wait, though…giving people the runs is a crime? It can be. While no charges have been filed yet against ConAgra, the company may be charged with a misdemeanor under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. Since you can’t put a corporation in prison, the plea deal would probably involve a fine. Don’t cry for ConAgra, though: they told shareholders in their annual report that, after already spending more than $14 million on matters related to the recall, the company’s profits won’t be affected.

After taking into account liabilities recorded for these matters, we believe the ultimate resolution of this matter should not have a material adverse effect on our financial conditions, results of operations, or liquidity.

The most likely scenario, according to ConAgra itself, will be a plea deal. Since you can’t throw a company in jail, they will probably have to pay fines.

Don’t confuse these charges with the class action suit filed against ConAgra back in 2007 by people who became ill, but weren’t interested in ConAgra’s offer of a free jar of peanut butter.

The Department of Justice has a site set up where victims can find out about public court dates and the progress of the case. The site isn’t live yet, but when it is, you can find it by clicking here.

The timing is interesting, with another peanut butter outbreak and recall happening right now. Also, executives of PCA, the company behind the 2009 peanut butter recall, are currently on trial, charged with felonies under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act. The executives themselves are on trial, not the company, which is now defunct.