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More victims seek restitution in ’06 peanut butter outbreak

An additional 42 victim statements with supporting documents have been filed with the government over a decade-old Salmonella Tennessee outbreak that was spread by peanut butter made at a ConAgra Grocery Products Co. processing plant in Sylvester, GA.

peterpanplant_406x250The additional victims statements were submitted June 8, according to Graham A. Thorpe, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. The government previously said more than 150 victim impact statements had been submitted.

In a status report to U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands, Thorpe said attorneys for both the government and ConAgra need more time to “fully review the materials which have been received.” The U.S. Probation Office is also expected to complete its review of the victim statements and supporting documentation no later than July 29.

Thorpe said at the time in consultation with the U.S. Probation Office, counsel for the government and ConAgra plan to request “a hearing and/or status conference with the Court to address the issues of victim restitution, and timing in relation to either a single hearing date for both entry of a guilty please and sentencing, or alternatively a hearing date for the entry of a guilty plea and sentencing date.”

ConAgra’s defense attorneys, Douglas A. Fellman of Washington D.C. and Joe D Whitley of Atlanta, agreed to the status report as submitted by Thorpe.

The company that manufactured Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butter and other products that were contaminated with Salmonella Tennessee and distributed between Oct. 6, 2006, and Feb. 14, 2007, agreed in May 2015 to plead guilty to a strict liability misdemeanor. ConAgra has agreed to pay a $8.011 million fine and forfeit $3.2 million.

Before moving on with the plea and sentencing, however, Judge Sands ordered the Department of Justice to expand its victim outreach attempts to locate more of those sickened in the outbreak. Peter Pan and Great Value peanut butters with the outbreak strain sickened at least 425 people in 44 states.

The Crime Victim’s Rights Act requires federal courts to consider restitution during the sentencing phase. If Sands accepts the plea agreement and sentencing recommendation, restitution will be the only remaining issue.

The government is not recommending any probation for the company largely because of its satisfactory performance in running the Sylvester, GA, peanut processing plant without any additional problems. It will be required to make reports on the anniversary of the agreement with the government on its food safety and quality control activities.

ConAgra Grocery Products Co. LLC is a subsidiary of ConAgra Inc., newly relocated to Chicago.

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