Peter Pan plant doing well a year after salmonella scare shut it down - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Peter Pan plant doing well a year after salmonella scare shut it down

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February 14, 2008

Sylvester-  It was a year ago Thursday that ConAgra Foods realized Peter Pan Peanut Butter coming from their Sylvester plant was making people sick nationwide.

Salmonella bacteria sickened more than 600 people in 47 states. It's been six months since production resumed. We sat down with the plant manager as ConAgra prepares to roll out the additional varieties of Peter Pan. ConAgra says business is better than it was before the salmonella outbreak.

Plant manager Earl Ehret remembers, it was exactly two o'clock a year ago that he had to shut down the lines in Sylvester.

"It was not a good feeling," said Earl Ehret, ConAgra Sylvester Plant Manager.

Over the next six months, ConAgra would learn it was a roof leak that lead to the salmonella contamination. They replaced the roof, reworked the floor plan which included separating the raw products from the finished peanut butter, installed a new roaster, and more.

"We put a new air system in the plant. The plant's now humidity and climate controlled, not only for the process but it's a more controlled environment for the people who work in the plant," said Ehret.

The plant has been running 20 hour shifts, six days a week, and has just begun shipping out the remaining five varieties of Peter Pan.

"All of those flavors are now in inventory and being shipped out back to market," said Ehret.

In fact, Peter Pan is doing better now than it was before the salmonella outbreak.

"We actually have a stronger position today January of 2008 we were stronger in the marketplace than we were January of 2007," said Ehret.

They credit that to loyal customers and ConAgra who took the right steps, making the necessary changes, to put out a safe, quality product.

"We'll have to see where the future takes us right now, we're just concentrating on our current Peter Pan Brands, getting them all back out to market and we'll just see where the future takes us from there," said Ehret.

The renovations and recalls cost ConAgra Foods more than 15 million dollars.

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