ConAgra resumes pot pie production after heeding USDA concerns

Nov 16, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – ConAgra Foods announced recently that it resumed production of pot pies brands that were linked to a nationwide Salmonella outbreak in October after making some changes that were prompted by an investigation by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Environmental testing at the Marshall, Mo., plant that produced the recalled pot pies found no traces of Salmonella, ConAgra said in a Nov 14 press release. The company also said the Salmonella strain involved in the outbreak appears to be limited to only Banquet turkey pot pies produced on Jul. 13, 2007 and Jul. 31, 2007, according to state findings and the company's own laboratory testing.

The outbreak associated with ConAgra's pot pies, which involved Salmonella serotype I4,[5],12:i:-, sickened 272 patients in 35 states, according to the latest update from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The USDA sent ConAgra a formal notice on Oct 23 listing concerns the agency had after its inspectors visited the plant, the Associated Press (AP) reported yesterday. The company developed a plan responding to the USDA's concerns, which the USDA approved on Nov 8, the AP report said.

USDA spokeswoman Amanda Eamich said details of the inspectors findings could be released only through a Freedom of Information Act request, the AP reported. However, she revealed that inspectors noted a record-keeping problem and a concern about ConAgra's HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) plan.

ConAgra said in its statement that the company has developed enhanced protocols for its ready-to-cook product manufacturing plants, which include stricter testing systems for ingredients coming into the plants and further testing of finished products.

The company also said it revised the pot pie cooking instructions to make them easier to follow and to help eliminate any confusion over cooking times.

"Any lapse in the safety of our food is unacceptable, and I know the steps we've taken will make a positive difference and help us provide consumers and customers with safe, wholesome products," said Gary Rodkin, ConAgra's chief executive officer, in the press statement.

Shipments of the pot pies to retail stores will begin in December and will be available to consumers as early as January, the company said.

USDA inspectors will monitor ConAgra's procedural changes over the next 90 days, the AP report said.

See also:

Nov 14 ConAgra press release

Oct 29 CDC update

Oct 12 CIDRAP News story "ConAgra recalls pot pies as Salmonella cases rise"

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