ConAgra to Reopen Georgia Plant Linked to Salmonella Outbreak

August 8, 2007

ConAgra Foods Inc. said Monday it plans this month to reopen the plant in Georgia where thousands of jars of peanut butter linked to a U.S. outbreak of salmonella were filled.

The Omaha-based company said it was planning to reopen its Sylvester, Ga., plant after spending at least $15 million on renovations that include repairing the roof, installing new equipment and creating a design to better separate raw materials and the finished product.

The plant was shut down in February after health officials linked Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter to a salmonella outbreak. More than 600 people in 47 states reported becoming ill, and the company faces lawsuits in several states.

Additionally, the peanut butter was recalled in more than 60 countries on three other continents, and on islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific.

The company traced the outbreak to three problems at the plant last August.

The plant’s roof leaked during a rainstorm, and the sprinkler system went off twice because of a faulty sprinkler, which the company said was repaired. The moisture from those three events mixed with dormant salmonella bacteria in the plant that the company said likely came from raw peanuts and peanut dust.

The plant was cleaned thoroughly after the roof leak and sprinkler problem, but the company said the salmonella remained and somehow came in contact with peanut butter before it was packaged.

The outbreak cost ConAgra $66 million before taxes during the fiscal year and hurt peanut butter sales.

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