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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

ConAgra Foods resumes making Banquet pot pies – spends $30 million on recall

CNN Money reported this afternoon that food maker giant, ConAgra Foods (NYSE:CAG) Inc., said that it has resumed producing Banquet and private label pot pies a month after they were recalled after being linked to salmonella illnesses. The pot pies made by ConAgra have been linked to at least 272 cases of salmonella in 35 states. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said at least 65 people were hospitalized as part of the outbreak.

Conagra said shipments to retail customers are expected to begin in December and consumers can expect to see the pies in retail stores by January (I can not wait). The company belatedly recalled all pies produced at its Marshall, Missouri plant (which we have a Court Order to enter) October 11 after the products were linked to cases of salmonella. ConAgra faces several lawsuits (actually, five) related to the recall, which was the second ConAgra recall this year due to salmonella (remember Peter Pan). ConAgra said it expects the pot pie recall to cost about $30 million, or 4 cents per share.

Hmmm, I bet ConAgra wishes it would have spent that money on upgrades of the plants instead of potential settlements on behalf of injured people.  I also spoke with Joe Ruff of the Omaha World Herald about ConAgra resuming production and the lawsuit we filed against it in its home state:

ConAgra’s menu again has pot pies

Full Article Below:

ConAgra Foods Inc. said Wednesday that it had enhanced its food safety procedures and resumed making frozen Banquet and private-label pot pies, which the company recalled last month after they were linked to salmonella illnesses.

The company said it would ship the pot pies to stores beginning in December, and they should be back on store shelves as soon as January.

"We apologize to any consumer who became ill from eating any of our pot pies," Chief Executive Gary Rodkin said in a statement. "I would like to assure our consumers, customers and investors that the food safety conditions and operating processes throughout our manufacturing network are strong."

Product testing indicates the salmonella contamination was isolated to Banquet turkey pot pies produced on July 13 and July 31, ConAgra officials said. No salmonella contamination was found in the Marshall, Mo., plant were the pot pies were made, the company said.

ConAgra recalled all turkey, chicken and beef pot pies on Oct. 11. The company had issued an advisory Oct. 9 warning people against eating turkey and chicken pot pies while the investigation continued.

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in cases of foodborne illnesses, said he did not take issue with ConAgra resuming production.

It might be too early to determine exactly which production dates were involved in any contamination, however, Marler said.

"As more health departments come in, we might get a better sense of the breadth of period of time contamination was in the plant," Marler said.

Marler’s firm has filed several lawsuits against ConAgra on behalf of people who said they became ill after eating Banquet or private-label pot pies made by the company.

One lawsuit was filed in Nebraska on behalf of Amy Eberle of Minden, who said her son became ill after eating a Great Value-brand chicken pot pie that she purchased from a store in Kearney.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said a specific strain of salmonella had sickened more than 270 people in 35 states, and interviews with people who had become ill pointed to Banquet pot pies as the likely source.

At least three Banquet pot pies taken from the homes of people had tested positive for the salmonella bacteria found in the outbreak, the federal agency said.

ConAgra said it has developed new and more stringent testing for ingredients coming into all its ready-to-cook manufacturing plants, as well as more testing of finished products. It worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at the Marshall plant on the new procedures before resuming production , the company said.

Cooking instructions on pot pies also have been revamped to eliminate potential confusion regarding cooking times, ConAgra officials said.

Before the recall, people may have undercooked the pot pies, particularly in microwave ovens that have varying power levels, company officials had said.

The recall could cost ConAgra about $30 million, or 4 cents per share, most of which will be recorded in the fiscal second quarter, the company said.

Stronger-than-expected earnings from trading and merchandising will help offset the recall costs for the full year, ConAgra said. Full-year guidance will be provided when the second-quarter report is issued Dec. 20, the company said.