ConAgra plans for future of Peter Pan - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

ConAgra plans for future of Peter Pan

April 5, 2007


Sylvester --  ConAgra Foods unveils plans to put Peter Pan Peanut Butter back on store shelves and completely renovate it's Sylvester Plant.

In February, ConAgra recalled all Peter Pan and Great Value Brand Peanut Butter with the product code 2111. Thursday, ConAgra announced it was a leaky roof and faulty sprinkler system that caused the Salmonella outbreak inside the plant. While repairs are underway, the peanut butter will be made elsewhere, and put back on store shelves in July. The Sylvester Peter Pan Plant is slated for reopening in August.

It was February 14th, the lines that produced Peter Pan Peanut Butter stopped, now the company says the problems that stopped those lines started in August.

 "In August of 2006 we had a leak in the roof and our sprinkler system was activated two times," said ConAgra Spokesman Stephanie Childs, by telephone. "After both of these events we addressed the situation, we repaired the roof and replaced a faulty sprinkler that set off our sprinkler system in the plant."

Employees also cleaned up the mess, but didn't go far enough, causing dormant Salmonella in the raw peanut dust to be activated.

"We believe there were still areas where Salmonella was still present and after the cleanup subsequently came in contact with finished peanut butter product."

That sickened more than 400 of people in 44 states. The company is doing what that can to make it right.

"We've reached out to the plaintiff's lawyers who are representing customers who may have been made ill by our own product, and have made arrangements for them to inspect our facility before the renovations," Childs said.

And they're working to get the product back on the shelves by July. "We are partnering with a co-manufacturer who meets the standards for making Peter Pan Peanut Butter a safe and quality product that consumers demand and expect."

In the hopes that loyal customers will return and the company can right the wrong. "That any consumer could have been harmed by our product really concerns us so our goal is to make sure and our mandate is to make sure that when we bring peter Pan back to store shelves it meets consumers expectations for safety and quality," said Stephanie Childs.

ConAgra says it will be early August at best before they could reopen this plant. There's a lot to be done, the company plans to put a new roof on the building, it must then be cleaned, and they will also replace a good bit of equipment used inside the plant to prevent any future problems.

They're also setting up food safety advisory committee that will work with the company to ensure the product coming out of this plant will be safe for consumers.

ConAgra employees have been on Spring Break this week but are expected to return to work Monday. Many will continue working during while the renovations are made.

ConAgra's announcement is welcome news to the town that considers itself the Peanut Capital of the World.  Most of the town's residents have remained loyal and defended one of the town's biggest employers.  The mayor continued to eat the recalled peanut butter and never once got sick. 

Residents there say when Peter Pan returns to the shelves, they'll buy it. "This is the first time I know of anything like this happening and I think they're doing everything they can to prevent it," said Benita Whittenberger.  

Peter Pan and ConAgra Foods said they never wanted to let down those loyal customers and hope they will continue to buy the product when it returns to shelves in July.

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