ConAgra pleads guilty to shipping tainted peanut butter

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — After a decade-long criminal investigation into a nationwide salmonella outbreak linked to Peter Pan peanut butter, a ConAgra executive has pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to a single misdemeanor charge of shipping adulterated food.

The guilty plea settles a criminal investigation into the source of the salmonella blamed for sickening at least 625 people in 47 states. Federal and state disease detectives traced it to a plant in rural Sylvester, Georgia, that produced Peter Pan peanut butter. A massive recall followed.

No individuals at the $16.9 billion conglomerate based in Chicago faced any charges. Leo Knowles, president of ConAgra Grocery Products Company, entered the misdemeanor plea on behalf of the company Tuesday before a federal judge in Georgia.

Judge W. Louis Sands was to decide later Tuesday whether to accept a settlement ConAgra reached with federal prosecutors. That deal calls for ConAgra to pay $11.2 million, including an $8 million fine that the Justice Department says would be the largest criminal fine over food safety in the United States.

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