Salmonella in ConAgra Pot Pies Sickened 401

A salmonella outbreak linked to <"">ConAgra’s Banquet Pot Pies sickened 401 people last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  According to a new report on the ConAgra salmonella pot pie outbreak, confusing microwave cooking instructions contributed to many of the illnesses.

In October 2007, ConAgra’s Banquet and store brand pot pies were linked to dozens of cases of Salmonella poisoning. At that time, ConAgra issued a health alert about the salmonella pot pie outbreak, warning consumers not to eat any of its 7-ounce store brand or Banquet Pot Pies with the codes “P-9” or “Est 1059” on the package. Despite the health alert, ConAgra did not recall the tainted pot pies. On October 11, ConAgra finally did issue a pot pie recall.

Following the ConAgra recall, it was learned that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) had found deficiencies at the Missouri plant that manufactured the pies.  Reportedly, these deficiencies included problems with record keeping and with ConAgra’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control plan that spells out what the company does to ensure product safety.  The USDA did not elaborate on the nature of those problems, however, the factory was subjected to a 90-day verification by federal inspectors to insure that problems were corrected.

According to an article published in this week’s issue of the CDC’s  Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,   the ConAgra pot pies ultimately sickened 401 people in 41 states.  Of those, 32 percent were hospitalized.

According to the CDC, roughly 77 percent of those sickened had eaten ConAgra pot pies that had been cooked in the microwave.  Because microwaves can heat foods unevenly, the CDC said  manufacturers need to provide clearer labeling and cooking instructions on not-ready-to-eat foods.  Other frozen, not-ready-to-eat foods, such as pre-browned chicken nuggets and chicken breasts, have been implicated in similar food poisoning outbreaks, the CDC said.

In December 2007, ConAgra admitted the cooking directions on its pot pies were confusing, and announced it would be revamping the instructions before the pot pies were returned to the market.   ConAgra also said it would be updating cooking instructions on hundreds of other frozen foods, including the company’s popular Healthy Choice and Kid Cuisine lines.

The ConAgra pot pie recall was the second time that one of the company’s products was implicated in a salmonella outbreak in 2007.   In February of that year, the company recalled its Peter Pan and Great Value Peanut Butter after the products were implicated in a salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 600 people in 47 states. The salmonella contamination was blamed on a leaky roof and malfunctioning sprinkler system at ConAgra’s manufacturing facility in Sylvester, Georgia.

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