ConAgra, the parent company of Peter Pan Peanut Butter, has been hit with a record fine for its role in a massive salmonella outbreak. The Associated Press reports the company will fork over $11.2 million.
ConAgra’s fine is $8 million, and it will pay an additional $3.2 million to the federal government, according to the AP. The company pleaded guilty to one charge of shipping adulterated food, a misdemeanor, closing out a criminal investigation that began in 2006. Investigators traced the salmonella outbreak to a Georgia plant that was a supplier for Peter Pan . It was determined ConAgra continued to ship the peanut butter even after it discovered the product was tainted. In total, 625 illnesses were reported.
Prosecutor Graham Thorpe told the AP the penalty is meant to send a message to food companies: “[The outbreak] made a lot of people sick. The industry has taken notice of this prosecution.”
The plea comes about 15 months after Stewart Parnell, former owner of Peanut Corporation of America, was sentenced to 28 years in prison after a criminal investigation into a separate salmonella outbreak. A jury determined Parnell and two co-defendants knowingly shipped peanuts that were tainted with salmonella and tampered with lab tests. That outbreak sickened 714 people and killed nine in 2008 and 2009.